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by Peter Moskos

August 29, 2008

More guns = More deaths.

I don't like guns, but I'm not a gun control nut. I think there are a good many reasons that people can and should have guns. If I were a store owner in a dangerous neighborhood, I'd want a gun. If I were a resident in a dangerous neighborhood, I'd want a gun. If I were a hunter, I'd want a gun. If I lived in wilderness, I'd want a gun.

But guns, equal death, not freedom. At least in a democracy. To me, this is obvious. But maybe it's not. Here's a little picture to make the point. For European countries (and America)--what I like to call civilized nations, the kind of countries I want to be compared to--the correlation is strong: the higher the percentage of households with guns, the more people get killed by guns. Duh.

Of course the US tops the list. Switzerland is the only country listed with more guns, and their firearm death rate is lower than the US, because there's more going on in American homicides than just guns. We've got the war on the drugs. We're also rare in that we combine lots of guns and lots of poverty. One or the other is usually OK, but not both.
Sorry the graphic is hard to read. Clicking on it makes it much bigger.

There is no country with few guns and a lot of murder.

By the way, my favorite argument for central government and gun control isn't on the list. That's Somalia. Land of the free.


DJK said...

Who is killing people with guns?

What should we do about those people?

So, based on what I presume to be the answer to my first question, if we remove those people from the equation....then where would our stats be?

I'm pretty sure Dr. John Lott has done a pretty good job at showing more guns in the right hands equal less crime in general and therefore less deaths.

So, we know gun control doesn't work in America. Thus, let's do something about criminal control and see where that takes us. Then, we can weigh the two gun control vs criminal control and see which one works better. We can use the past 30 years in DC as our data set for Gun Control and now we just have to find a place that will actually control criminals.

dave h. said...

Somalia, from what I can tell, could be used to dissuade people from advocating anarchism (and outside of college campuses, globalization protests and internet chat rooms, not many people do), but not more moderate steps towards limiting government. Somalia is essentially ruled by competing war lords and religious nut jobs (that may be a bit simplistic, but you get my drift). Essentially, you may have different "laws" from block to block, which will lead to inevitable problems. Who in the U.S. would stand by if female circumcision or child abuse was being permitted in village next door? We need minimum standards, and that is the primary rationale for the existence of the state.

This is not to say I would comfortably advocate too much central government though. In the U.S., in fact, I believe we really need to reduce federal power and empower the states. Actually,I think the real hope is in the states. While some states are taking baby steps towards marijuana decriminalization, the DEA busts medical marijuana shops. Local school districts try to innovate (sometimes incorporating the dreaded concept of "school choice") while the feds implement the statist "No Child Left Behind" program. During the civil rights era, federal power was needed to push the country into a more humane direction. Today, the national government is pushing us backward.

PCM said...

Somalia is anarchy (best I can tell). I don't mean to use it as an example of less government. I mean it as an example of no government.

I think it can be used to dissuade people from advocating extreme libertarianism.

There a big common ground between what we have in America and what they have in Somalia.

In the 1960s I would have been for more federal government on moral grounds (at least I like to think I would have been... I wasn't alive). Now I'm for more state power because I think the feds are too powerful and making the wrong choices.

Is that consistent? Not really. But I prefer better government (sometimes less, sometimes more) over consistency. And generally, I'll think we'll get better policy when we've got 50 states experimenting rather than one government imposing. There is nothing today like the Civil Rights Movement that demands the federal government to steamroll states' rights.

Dave H. said...

Your logic sounds pretty sound to me. Recently, I've been watching the HBO miniseries "John Adams," and I've found the disputes between the Federalist Alexander Hamilton, the more moderate Adams, and the more libertarian Thomas Jefferson to be pretty interesting. We should definitely let the states experiment!

On the libertarian thing: I think if right-leaning libertarians advocated the idea of a basic income (actually,Milton Friedman at least discussed the negative income tax, so some probably have) then left-libertarians like me might stop using extra adjectives to describe our libertarianism. Also, the differences between libertarians and (modern) liberals would begin to fade away. Instead of relying on direct taxation of income to accomplish this goal, I think we should use revenue raised from land rent and fees from the extraction of natural resoucrces (oil, timber, and even use of the "airwaves," which are supposed to be publicly owned)to pay out equal dividends to all citizens. Basically, this would be like belonging to a big credit union. These ideas have their origins in the ideas of Tom Paine, Adam Smith, Henry George and others. A limited example of this system is the Alaska Permanent Fund, which pays out dividends to Alaskans from oil revenue.

LibFree said...

For a liberal, PCM is actually kind of liberal.

PCM said...

libfree, I keep telling people that! I don't know why they don't believe me.