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More Gun Control Equals Lower Firearm Fatality Rates?

Friday, November 22, 2013

An article on the PolicyMic website, written by Brian Frydenborg, who identified himself as a former "Peace Operations" student in college, makes a number of scholarly-sounding claims.  First, it says that "studies" show that "[s]tates with more gun regulations had lower rates of gun deaths, and states with less gun laws had higher gun death rates, both in terms of suicide and homicide."  It also asserts that the "10 states with the weakest gun laws had over twice the rate of gun violence as the 10 states with the strongest gun laws," and that "the presence of gun laws in states had a strong correlation with less gun violence."  It even goes on to insist that "the number one determining factor in gun suicide rates by state was not mental health issues, but gun ownership. What counts as "strong laws," of course, was defined by gun control supporters.

Frydenborg concludes, "If you think I’m wrong, the burden of proof is on you to provide counter-evidence."

On the latter point, we have to say "not really." In this country, the burden of proof is not upon those who wish to exercise rights, it is upon those who wish to restrict them.

As to the claims made in those various "studies," even the most casual reader can recognize their common flaw right off the bat. Even if a gun control law reduced firearm-related murders and suicides, it would mean nothing if people intent on committing murder and suicide achieved their objectives by other means.

And that is precisely what many of them do.

According to the most recent data from the FBI (2012), states that have relatively higher firearm murder rates generally also have relatively higher non-firearm murder rates. Of the 12 states that had firearm murder rates higher than the national rate, seven were among the 12 states that had the highest non-firearm murder rates. Of the 10 states with the lowest firearm murder rates, eight were among the states with the lowest non-firearm murder rates.

Similarly, according to the most recent data (2010) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 20 states that had firearm homicide rates that were higher than the national rate, 16 were among the 20 states that had the highest non-firearm homicide rates. The 10 states that had the highest firearm murder rates all had non-firearm murder rates higher than the national rate. Eight of the 10 states with the lowest firearm murder rates were among the 10 states that had the lowest non-firearm murder rates.

Of the 10 states with the highest firearm suicide rates, five were among the 10 states with the highest non-firearm suicide rates. Illustrating how people who are intent on committing suicide will do so by whatever means are available, Hawaii, which has perhaps the lowest firearm ownership rate among the states, had the highest non-firearm suicide rate in the country, 4.6 times higher than its firearm suicide rate.

What’s next? A study pretending to show that the first murders and suicides took place only after the invention of firearms in the 13th century?

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