Mathematical Malpractice Watch: Gun Deaths

Before we start, I don’t want to debate, right now, whether more or less gun control would have prevented today’s tragedy (although you can probably guess which way I lean). No, I want to illustrate how statistics get distorted to make gun control seem like a good idea.

(For the moment, I’ll ignore the suggestion that guns kill people all by themselves. I also have no idea if Dakin supports gun control or not. I do know that this has been retweeted by about 10,000 people who do.)

Notice a few things here. First, he’s split up England and Wales to make them seem less violent. Second, he compares the absolute number of gun homicides (not necessarily murders), which is deeply problematic. In one case, he’s comparing us to nation with a 15th of our population.

Let’s make a more useful comparison. We’ll take the 2010 murder rates and scale them up to the 312 million population of the United States.

Australia – 3,600
United Kingdom – 3,800
Germany – 2,500
Canada – 5,000
United States – 15,000

On this scale, the US is still the most violent country in the data, but the difference is not nearly as stark. But before you go thinking that strict gun control could reduce the number of murders by 80%, note something important: non-gun murders. Every year, 5000 Americans are killed without a gun involved. This number is still greater than the total murder rate in the other countries, nearly twice the rate of their non-gun murders.

There are other issues here: the plunge in murder rates over the last twenty years as gun control laws were loosened; the very low murder rates outside of the high-crime inner cities; that gun control laws in other countries aren’t as straight-forward as thought; that many nations with high gun ownership have low homicide rates (Switzerland, for example).

That’s another debate. What I’m pointing out here is how the numbers have been manipulated to make a bad situation seem worse in order to push an agenda.

Comments are closed.

  1. Mississippi Yankee

    Just one person with a CCW could have derailed this madman PDQ. Or did the theater have “victims only-enter here” stickers on it’s doors?

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  2. Poosh

    The shooter was armed with body armour and tear gas, and apparently was quite literally a villain out of some movie seeing as I’m hearing on the BBC that his apartment was boobytrapped (wtf?).

    I wonder what good armed citizens would have been in this situation. if ALL were armed, it wouldn’t have happened I suspect, but realistically only a few would have been armed.

    I understand that freedom IS to go to a cinema without the NEED to bring a gun. But freedom isn’t something given, and is actually a Utopian idea, what we have are trade-offs and harsh choices.

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  3. Mississippi Yankee

    As more facts come to light it turns out the theater chain DID have a “no guns allowed” policy. And are presumably hiring lawyers for the civil cases as I type this.

    My point is: One 71 year old man in Ocala FL stopped 2 armed men with a small, legally carried hand gun earlier this week. And yes this psycho was better armed and perhaps more committed there is still no scarier incident that having someone shooting or shooting back at you. This guy was a post-grad medical student not a battle hardened soldier.

    Of course the ‘usual suspects’, both here and in the press, will attempt to dismiss this argument. Facts be damned.

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  4. TxAg94

    I would be willing to wager that the “no gun allowed” policy, if indeed it is true, played a subtle but important role in the guy choosing that theater. I would also agree that had even one person fired back it could have drastically changed how it all played out. It would be interesting if someone were to point-blank ask the guy if he knew there was such a policy and if it made a difference.

    What I want to know is how this ever could have happened if there WAS a “no guns allowed” policy. I mean, didn’t the guy see the signs? If the theater just had bigger signs with bright colors letting everyone know they couldn’t bring guns, psychotic mass murderer wannabes included, this never would have happened…

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  5. HARLEY

    I would also agree that had even one person fired back it could have drastically changed how it all played out.

    Agreed, person that commit such crimes are usually cowards, and do not want to the chance of facing return fire.
    Obama made a quip about , the possibilities of his daughters being there. Very good point, the Secret Service members assigned to them would quickly drop the perp. A very strong endorsement for CCW, if i ever heard one.

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  6. Mississippi Yankee

    Aurora CO has some of the strictest gun control laws in the state.

    Aurora

    1. “Dangerous weapon” includes firearm

    2. Revocation of license for furnishing a firearm to a minor or someone under the influence.

    3. Window displays cannot include firearms with barrels less than 12 inches long.

    4. Unlawful to carry concealed “dangerous weapon”

    5. Unlawful to discharge firearms, unless by law enforcement on duty or on shooting range.

    6. Unlawful to possess firearm while under the influence of intoxicant

    7. Unlawful to have loaded firearm in motor vehicle.

    8. Unlawful for a juvenile to possess a firearm.

    Firearms Regulations in the 20 Largest Colorado Municipalities

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  7. Tripper

    Just nit picking here but I don’t think there is any hidden motive in calling out England & Wales as he did. Although they are two distinct countries their crime stats are always measured and reported together. (Scotland is measured and reported separately, as is Northern Ireland)

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  8. Poosh

    Although they are two distinct countries

    They’re not. England and Wales should be tallied together, and Scottish stats should be included as well. They are not distinct countries. Welsh, English and Scots are today basically the same, it’s only pig-headedness and racism that denies it. Wales rightly has less autonomy than any American state. They are essentially STATES, not countries. Any gun stats should include UK gun stats. If they reported Scotland separately then they are quite clearly fudging the stats and misleading people.

    Unless, of course, they reported every single US state as a Country and reported them separately.

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  9. Tripper

    They’re not. England and Wales should be tallied together, and Scottish stats should be included as well. They are not distinct countries. Welsh, English and Scots are today basically the same, it’s only pig-headedness and racism that denies it. Wales rightly has less autonomy than any American state. They are essentially STATES, not countries. Any gun stats should include UK gun stats. If they reported Scotland separately then they are quite clearly fudging the stats and misleading people.

    Unless, of course, they reported every single US state as a Country and reported them separately.

    Respectfully, you sir, are talking pish (poosh?)
    They are obviously distinctive countries, but my point, if you would take the time to understand it, is that Wales and England ARE tallied together, which was the point of the guy who’s tweet we were examining. Only that he specifically called them both out by name, while giving one actually tally. Somehow that was seen as making them look less violent, I’m not sure why, but I’ll buy it that perhaps somebody who doesn’t know how UK crime stats are tallied may think that.

    On your other point, why on earth would Scottish stats be lumped in with England and Wales stats when Scotland has their own legal system, with several key differences. It would make no sense.
    You’re free to add up the homicide deaths or gun crimes from Scotland to the England & Wales stats if you like, and throw in NI if you want, but that would be your job to add it up for the purpose of this thread. When they have a different legal system and policing situation, why would you think they should be included with the E&W numbers?

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  10. ilovecress

    I suspect it’s where the statistics are collected as Scotland nominally has a different system.

    Actually the gun laws are exactly the same though, so you should be able to compare the numbers. But England and Wales are always lumped together in all the stats.

    I’m pretty sure the gun deaths are way lower than England though – so actually if you combined them then it would make his point even more.

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  11. Tripper

    They’re not nominally different countries, they are different.
    I would expect that if you put Scotland homicides or gun crimes into England & Wales stats they’d make them worse. At least the homicide ones, perhaps not the guns bit.
    Certain areas of Scotland are not pleasant places though

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  12. Poosh

    They are ‘states’, not different countries. What planet are you on? This isn’t even up for discussion. This isn’t the 12,000s. Calling them different countries is empty of content. They are not obviously distinct countries, they are the same country, called the UK. I mean is it normal for one country to entirely fund an entirely different country? Because the English taxpayer funds Scotland. It’s semantics are primitive nationalism (misplaced) that still regards them as unique countries.

    If you want the real statistics of these countries, you use THE UNITED KINGDOM statistics. US states have “distinct” differences, but we lump them together under The United States.

    They are the same country. They have the same Prime Minister, are subject to the authority of Her Majesty, protected by the same army, the same culture. It’s nice to pretend that you’re different to the Scots, or the English, but you’re not. You’re the same.

    There is autonomy to a degree, like US states, and Scotland and Wales are much more liberal than England, and Scotland and Wales systemic poverty is a result of this, despite living off the backs of the English. But it’s the same country and everyone who isn’t delusional, knows this.

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  13. Poosh

    You’re free to add up the homicide deaths or gun crimes from Scotland to the England & Wales stats if you like, and throw in NI if you want, but that would be your job to add it up for the purpose of this thread.

    This is just claptrap.

    If you want to compare AMERICA to this Island then you compare the collective stats of the United KINGDOM. England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (and you would discard specific Northern Ireland crimes related to terrorism, if you’d like).

    For some reason England and Welsh crime is dealt separately to Scotland and NI so their stats I assume were not easily found or combined, which is why England and Wales comes up there together, their juicy stats are easy to find.

    But the stats are compiled as they are compiled, now note this from 2010:

    For burglaries and robberies England and Wales had more crimes per 100,000 people than the USA.

    Here are the latest, I believe, stats, you can see England and Wales grouped together, but you also can see Scotland.

    US has 5 times as much Homicides as most developed countries, tied with Estonia for some reason. The fact that the United Kingdom is not correctly compiled creates a large distorting affect, when compared to the USA and other countries, but we do seem to have significantly higher assault cases than the US.

    The point being, yes the US has a high gun-crime/murder rate but Brits are in NO POSITION to act smug. In fact it would be entirely interesting to see a state-by-state break down.

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  14. InsipiD

    For burglaries and robberies England and Wales had more crimes per 100,000 people than the USA.

    Perhaps guns help keep some of that in check.

    Also, why hasn’t anybody pointed out that Northern Ireland not getting counted with Wales and England is probably the bigger deal than Scotland? Northern Ireland might be under cease-fire, and the IRA hasn’t been as violent as it was for a while, but I’m sure that keeping NI off of it probably changes that a lot.

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  15. Tripper

    I’m making no argument about anybody feeling smug over these stats, and I’d agree with InsipiD that guns probably have an impact on the number of robberies.
    You’re miles off on the stuff about the relationship between the British countries though. Granted it is a somewhat unique system, but when a country has a separate police force, legal system, educational system, it’s own (limited) parliament etc. then it’s hardly as you describe it.

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  16. Poosh

    The same can be said for American states.

    The United Kingdom is a country that is made up of 4 countries, so perhaps it can be confusing. But fantasies that Scotland is its own country (that is comparable to say Estonia or Israel) is nothing but delusional cultural throwbacking and/or bigotry. Scotland is not a country, outside the semantics. Any autonomy it has is a point of expedience, not nationhood – they are analogous to USA’s states (but US states have MORE power and Independence from the central government). Is there even an American state that is funded and held up by another US state? Because the English tax payer spends a great deal of money on Scotland, funding their “free” education. The NHS, though separated into 3 subsystems, are identical. If I’m ill in Scotland but live in Wales, I get the same free healthcare. Can I come to America and get free healthcare?

    Does Scotland have its own Army? Does it have its own fleet or airforce? Does it have its own secret service? England, Scotland, Wales and Northen Ireland are all subject to the will of the Monarch. The Parliament of the UNITED KINGDOM is supreme.

    Any attempt to compile crime statistics in order to compare and contrast with the United States, who are PRETENDING that Scotland, Wales, NI, and England are separate countries, are distorting the statistics. Hal is correct to yearn to use full and healthy United Kingdom statistics.

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  17. Tripper

    Why are you so intent to turn this into such an off topic ramble. Nobody is comparing Scotland to Israel or talking about the NHS except you. Thanks for tossing around the bigotry suggestions though.

    I was simply pointing out that it is very unlikely there was any intention from Shaun Dakin to make England, Wales or both look less violent. He actually reports their combined gun murder number, so while he mentions both countries by name, he is not splitting up their firearm murder stats
    .
    Why does he do that? It’s because the office of national statistics combines the crime stats of England and Wales.
    And why do they do that? Because England and Wales share a legal system while Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own legal system.
    What about this do you dispute?

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  18. ilovecress

    Poosh – but they have a different police force and legal system. So the people who do the counting are different – that’s why the numbers appear differently. I don’t think it’s any grand conspiracy to keep the numbers apart (combining them would give the appearance of credibility to the pro gun control in the USA side) – I think it’s literally that the Justice department has been devolved, so the methodology of counting might be slightly different.

    (This is an educated guess from me, but I do have family members in the Scottish Legal system, and came across a few issues like this when I was working for the UK Govt)

    Hal is correct to yearn to use full and healthy United Kingdom statistics.

    (from wikipedia, so, you know…)

    US Gun Death Rates per 100,000 = 10.27
    England/Wales Gun Death Rates per 100,000 = 0.46
    Scotland Gun Death Rates per 100,000 = 0.58

    This site has the whole UK at 0.22 though, which is odd. But there does seem to be the raw stats on the site.

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  19. Poosh

    What about this do you dispute?

    I know these things and they’re irrelevant. It’s clear Scotland is not a country like Israel is or any other actual country, for that matter. Separate legal system does not mean separate country. You are not comparing like with like when you group all 50 US states as one country (which would be correct) yet pick and choose when it comes to the UK. It distorts the numbers.

    Yes ILoveCress, I assume it is the methodology and different ways of classifying things which would make compiling like by like crime statistics difficult, though not impossible – I guess, as you say.

    I would imagine gun rates are low in the UK compared to the US. But I do wonder, what the state-by-state rates are, in the US.

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  20. Tripper

    I have no idea what your problem is then. What you are calling irrelevant, is exactly relevant to the original point I made in the thread, which was really just a nit pick clarification.
    For some reason you want to turn that into some entirely different discussion.

    Re. your question about state by state gun stats, google is your friend.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States_by_state
    It looks like 2004 is the most recent data, no idea why there is nothing since then, perhaps there is, I only did a very quick search.
    I believe gun violence has gone down at a US country level since then, so if I had to guess, I’d expect these 2004 numbers to all be slightly higher than say 2011.

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  21. CM

    Perhaps guns help keep some of that in check.

    There was a discussion here last week about the high level of assaults. It’s more than in the US (per 100,000 people or some such measure), but gun related deaths are considerably lower. The general theory being that people here don’t generally get shot if they assault someone. In the US the chances are much greater. Makes sense. That would apply to the UK and other western countries too I suppose.

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  22. Seattle Outcast

    You can’t talk about culture in the US as if it’s homogenous – there are a large variety of subcultures that don’t mix well with each other. In an immigrant country of more than 300 million, spread out across a continent that includes everything from massive metropolitan cities that encompass hundreds of square miles each to sparsely populated plains and mountainous regions, you can’t grab two people at random and expect them to share all aspects of the national culture. The corn farmer from Nebraska doesn’t exactly have anything at all in common with a rapper from LA, except a complete distrust of each other.

    I’d wager that the vast majority of your assaults that end in shootings (based on nothing more than watching the evening news) occur in low-income, inner-city minority enclaves and frequently involve criminal activity of one sort or another well before the guns come out.

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  23. hist_ed

    Poosh you made me get out my pedantic hat, but before I tell you that you are wrong about the various nations within the United Kingdom, a little English lesson. The definitions of three words have, in common usage, become almost synonymous. They didn’t use to be, and should still retain the different meanings. The three words are nation, state and country.

    Used to be that nation was a people, a state was a government and country was a geographical term. Now we use them all interchangeably (which make the term “nation-state” a bit redundant.)

    So, Poosh, the state of the United Kingdom, which rules the country of Great Britain (and a bit of the country of Ireland) contains the nations of Scotland, England and Wales.

    Saying that the Scots and the English are the same people is simply ignorant. Not a single Scot or Englishman would agree with you. Are the Cherokee and the Macah the same nation? How about the The Flemish and the Walloons (Tutsi and Hutus?)? Just because two or more nations share a government doesn;t mean that they are the same people (and just because a nation is divided into several governments doesn’t mean they aren’t the same nation-just ask the Prussians and Bavarians circa 1870).

    Comparing all this to the US is apples and oranges. The United States is not a nation in the same sense as the old nations of Europe or Asia. There is no Californian language.

    Also, your point about the Queen is absurd. Are New Zealanders, Canadians, Australians, Jamaicans and Belizers (?) also part of the the same country?

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  24. Poosh

    So are Cherokee crimes kept separate when you compile crime statistics?

    And a great number of British people will shrug and simply say “basically we’re the same” after giving it a bit of thought. And we are.

    And the Queen holds direct authority over the UK. She doesn’t over New Zealand etc, so how that’s an absurd point is beyond me.

    And whilst one might take your point of definitions I’ve almost never heard anyone refer to the nation of the English or Welsh. The British nation YES. The idea of calling the English a nation of themselves, or the Welsh, is outdated because it’s irrelevant and outdated, and a historic throwback. Times are different. We are ONE people.

    We have more or less identical cultures other than what we imagine. But as SE says:

    You can’t talk about culture in the US as if it’s homogenous

    Exactly. The only reason someone goes out of their way to separate the UK (when trying to compare to the US) is to create lower statistics.

    I have no idea what your problem is then.

    I don’t know either now!

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  25. hist_ed

    So are Cherokee crimes kept separate when you compile crime statistics?

    Yes there are separate statistics kept for every racial and ethnic group and these are further subdivided by every other thing you can imagine.

    And the Queen holds direct authority over the UK. She doesn’t over New Zealand etc, so how that’s an absurd point is beyond me.

    What power does the Queen have in Britain that she does not have in New Zealand or Jamaica?

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