Earlier this week a Bernie Sanders supporter shot and wounded several GOP congressmen at a charity baseball game practice. In response thereto a number of politicians called for more restrictive gun laws, as they usually do in the wake of any high-profile shooting. Considering that the rest of the world loves bashing the United States’ so-called “out-of-control gun violence”, perhaps it is time to unpack the statistics on this issue a tad.
Now, this is not going to be a particularly scientific or rigorous investigation. The sources used are all linked in, and they are all in the public domain. The purpose of this little exercise is simply to see if there is any meaningful link between the murder rate in a particular state and the nature of their gun laws. To ensure we compare apples with apples, all data used dates from 2015.
As our benchmark number we will use the US national murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate in 2015, which was 4,9 per 100 000 people.
- District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) – 24,1
- New York – 3,1
- New Jersey – 4,1
- Massachusetts – 1,9
- Hawaii – 1,3
- California – 4,8
- Connecticut – 3,3
- Maryland – 8,6
- Illinois – 5,8
- Rhode Island – 2,7
According to the same publication, the 10 best states for owning a gun in 2015 (and their respective murder rates per 100 000) were:
- Arizona – 4,5
- Vermont – 1,6
- Alaska – 8,0
- Utah – 1,8
- Kentucky – 4,7
- Wyoming – 2,7
- Alabama – 7,2
- Kansas – 4,4
- Missouri – 8,3
- New Hampshire – 1,1
From the above it is obvious that there is no relationship between how restrictive or permissive an individual state is with regards to gun laws, and its murder rate. If there were we would expect to see prohibitionist districts like D.C. have a much, much lower murder rate. We would also have expected to see Vermont with a much higher murder rate. Interestingly in both the top and bottom 10 states, there are 3 which have murder rates higher than the national average.
Another interesting observation is that Texas (ranked as the 15th best state for gun ownership) had exactly the same murder rate as California (among the most restrictive states in the US) in 2015 – 4,8 murders per 100 000 people.
Clearly something else is afoot here. The fact that crime and violence has multifactorial causes is not a surprising nor new revelation. It is something that has been known to policymakers for decades. The fact that the United States is currently experiencing a homicide rate which is at a 51-year low, whilst the amount of new guns manufactured and imported over a 20-year period increased by 141%, is further proof that there exists no correlation between gun laws and murder rates.
Yet whenever a high-profile shooting incident occurs, there are calls by politicians for more restrictive gun laws.
This is, simply put, bad policy. It may look and sound great on CNN (except when it does not), but it ignores all the evidence to the contrary (which is pretty overwhelming) and is nothing more than a cheap play on voters’ emotions in order for the official to appear to “be doing something”.
If we are going to force a connection between variables that clearly aren’t related, then Californians are obviously worse people than Texans since they commit the same amount of murder without having easy access to guns. The answer is clearly that we need to ban Californians.