Saturday, December 18, 2010

How's that murder rate going for you?

That was the question I was asked by a Brit on my buddy Kevin's Facebook page.  I replied there, but am now stepping to my own house to post a full reply, to avoid a full-on flame war on his status.

It all started with a quote:
"The world is filled with violence. Because criminals carry guns, we decent law-abiding citizens should also have guns. Otherwise they will win and the decent people will lose."
- James Earl Jones

It devolved after I quoted Burke and was asked "So how is that murder rate going for you now that everyone is armed to the teeth? I see your murder rate is 3x ours, per capita."  Well, let's just see how it is.

My British challenger was correct about the US murder rate being 3x the UK rate, per capita.  This is a good start, it means that he can do research and pull good facts.  There's one problem with his argument, however.  With the much bemoaned  "ready availability of guns" in the US, you'd assume that we'd have the highest rate of murders with guns in the world, no?  You'd be incorrect.  In fact, we're not even #2.  We're #8, actually.  The UK is on the list, at #38, which for that portion is unsurprising, as guns are effectively banned there.  However, it seems British criminals are as inventive as any other, and find other ways to kill, leading to such things as a desire to ban pointed kitchen knives.  In fact, they're even more so, as the fraction of murders represented by guns there is far smaller than the fraction here.

What about other violent crimes, though?  The US and the UK have a virtually identical rate of assault.  Our rape rate is roughly double theirs.  However, our total crime rate is roughly 5% lower than theirs.

So, it looks like the US is a violent pit, doesn't it?  Not so fast.  The US is a big, broad place, so let's break those numbers down a bit more.

2009's numbers show, irrefutably,  that the violent, crime-ridden places in the US are, unsurprisingly, the exact same places that have onerous restrictions or outright bans on ownership and use of personal weapons for defense.  Washington, DC, where guns are now technically legal (but incredibly difficult) to own, but virtually impossible to bear in self-defense, has an overall violent crime rate of 1,345.9/100000, while Wyoming, where I carry a gun most every day (and which has roughly the same total population as DC), has an overall violent crime rate of 228.2/100000, and that's not the lowest figure at all.

Guns don't cause crime.  Criminals cause crime.  Guns are an equalizer, allowing a guy who stands 5'4", with a wrecked knee, to protect himself and his family against those who would do them harm.


All data in this post courtesy of Nationmaster and the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting office, via the UCR Datatool.

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