Friday, December 28, 2012

Guns: Beyond the Superficial Numbers

 At night, and on weekends, I’m a Martial Arts Instructor. By day I’m a mild mannered Enterprise IT Architect. "IT" as in Information Technology. I started out as a computer programmer and have been gainfully employed for almost 35 years.

The significance of my "other" career, is that analyzing problems and finding workable solutions is my day job. I can’t just do what someone says because it sounds reasonable, I have to poke and prod at ideas to make sure they are sound.

Does America’s tolerance for guns lead to a disproportionate number of violent crimes and shootings? Would reducing the number of guns (any type) result in a safer society? Or are guns merely the means, and not the root cause? If we reduced access to the means (guns) would crimes and deaths diminish?

The graphic below illustrates that there is very little relationship between those countries that have a lot of guns with those that have high homicide rates. The numbers come from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which gets its US data from the FBI.

Each dot represents two values, the higher the dot, the more guns a country has for every 100 citizens. The US has about 88 guns per 100 people, so the US has the highest dot on the graph.

The dot’s distance from the left axis represent how many homicides each country has per 100,000 citizens. The US has about 3.2 gun murders per 100,000 people, so our dot is very close to the left axis, i.e. not very many.

You might have predicted (and would have been wrong) that the more guns per capita, the more gun homicides. This turns out not to be true. Mexico has far fewer guns than the US (per person), but experiences three times as many homicides. Venezuela has even fewer per capita guns and a murder rate three times that of Mexico.

Do not misunderstand - I am not disputing that easy access to guns contributes to gun violence. However, the factual numbers cannot be wished away on the fantasy that simply reducing the number of guns of any type will have any relationship to a reduction in homicides. The data shows that the presence of guns is not the root cause of homicide.

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