WTH America!

Third times the charm with this baby! I don’t even want to tell you how long it took me to retype this. After the first attempt at posting I felt it was my duty to rewrite this topic from my perspective because there isn’t any better time than the present. You can see my initial reaction to WordPress not saving my work here, even after I had clicked on the save draft button numerous times.

While I have attempted to remain rather neutral on this issue, as Ezra Klein recently pointed out, doing just that is rather impossible and is a political act in itself.

This is not the time to talk about gun regulations in America

In the past week in the United States this happened:

According to a preliminary report sponsored by the Center for Disease Control, co-authored by Donna L. Hoyert, Ph.D. and Jiaquan Xu, M.D., 30,000 people died in American in 2011 because of guns. In fact so many people died in the summer of 2011, the authors dubbed it “the summer of the gun”.

This past spring (May 22, 2012) Simon Rogers used data compiled by the UNODC & Small arms survey to create an interactive map showing gun ownership and gun homicides murder map by country in the world, publishing his findings in the Guardian UK. I encourage you to follow the link and do your own investigating, however here is a comparison between the United States and Germany:

FIREARMS MURDERS AND CIVILIAN GUN OWNERSHIP
The United States: 270,000,000 civilian firearms – 88.8 for every 100 people
The United States: Ranked 1 in the world for civilian gun ownership
In the latest year, there were 9,146 homicides by firearm – 2.97 per 100,000 population. 60% of all homicides are by firearm

SOURCE: CTS, via the UNODC and the Small Arms Survey

Germany – 25,000,000 civilian firearms – 30.3 for every 100 people
Germany: Ranked 15 in the world for civilian gun ownership
In the latest year, there were 158 homicides by firearm – 0.19 per 100,000 population. 26.3% of all homicides are by firearm

SOURCE: CTS/National police, via the UNODC and the Small Arms Survey

While I understand that comparing the two nations has it’s blatant challenges, namely that the US and Germany are vastly different sheer size and population. However, since I now consider these two places home, I feel this comparison is valid.

The actual interactive link can be found here.

The actual interactive link can be found here.

Basically, when the information was initially published, Rogers explained it rather simply, that the key facts are:

  • The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people
  • But the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate – that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people
  • Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.

Washington Post contributor Ezra Klein published Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States, in the December 14 (2012) online edition of the Washington Post, where he reflects on data he has collected and analyzed since this summer. As Klein sees it, it is difficult to separate the political from the non-political with this issue. By attempting to not be political, claiming that “now is not the time to talk about reforming gun policy or regulation” is being exactly that: political. What he attempts to present isn’t necessarily policy, but facts based on facts.

As he claims in the article:

If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late (Klein, Twelve Facts).

Once again, without wanting to regurgitate too much of the article here, I encourage you to click over to the article itself and read up on his research, findings and analysis, especially since he provides many charts and graphs to back up his points.

Klein’s twelve facts are:

  1. Shooting sprees are not rare in the United States.
  2. 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States.
  3. Lots of guns don’t necessarily mean lots of shootings, as you can see in Israel and Switzerland.*
  4. Of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, five have happened from 2007 onward.
  5. America is an unusually violent country. But we’re not as violent as we used to be.
  6. The South is the most violent region in the United States.
  7. Gun ownership in the United States is declining overall.
  8. More guns tend to mean more homicide.
  9. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.
  10. Gun control, in general, has not been politically popular.
  11. But particular policies to control guns often are.
  12. Shootings don’t tend to substantially affect views on gun control.

*Correction: The info is out-of-date, if not completely wrong. Israel and Switzerland have tightened their gun laws substantially, and now pursue an entirely different approach than the United States. More details here. I apologize for the error (Klein, Twelve Facts).

Finally, another good article reposted in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, is from Atlantic Cities (a part of Atlantic Monthly) written by Richard Florida titled, “The geography of fun violence.”

Florida claims that based on previous research done by Harry Moroz there is a high correlation between American metro areas and their level of unemployment “at the overall rate of gun deaths is considerable (.55), and the correlation between it and gun-related murders is even higher (.72) […] Based on the CDC data, almost 60 percent of U.S. firearm homicides occur in the 62 cities of the country’s 50 largest metros. However, only 27 percent of suicides do. In 2006, firearm suicides were a primarily suburban (and non-central city) phenomenon, which is likely weighing down the relationship between firearm deaths and the city unemployment rate. (Florida, Geography)”.

Florida claims:

Population size is negatively associated with suicide-related gun deaths (-.46) and not significantly associated with either total gun deaths or murder by gun at the metro level. Population density is not significantly associated murder by gun and negatively and significantly associated with gun-related suicides (-.67) and the overall rate of death by gun (-.46).

Poverty is a substantial factor in gun deaths by metro, as it was in our previous state-level analysis. The percentage of a metro’s population below the poverty line is significantly associated with all three types of gun death — homicide (.45), suicide (.35), and the overall rate (.49).
Inequality has been increasing in America and is a major source of economic anxiety and tension. It is associated (.33) with murder by gun (this differs from the state level where we did not find a statistically significant correlation), but not with gun-related suicides or the overall rate of gun deaths.

Unemployment is a substantial source of economic anxiety, but we find no association between it and any category of gun death at the metro level. This is in line with our earlier finding for states. But it is at odds with Moroz’s analysis that found a close association between unemployment and gun deaths in center cities. Unemployment rates, of course, are typically much higher in center cities than states or metro areas. This is one area where we see clearly different patterns at across these three basic levels of geography.

Economic advantage plays a substantial role in moderating death by gun, at the metro level as it did for states. More affluent metros have lower rates of all forms of gun death. That said, economic advantage — measured as per capita income — plays a bigger role in moderating the overall rate of gun death (-.55) and that for gun-related suicide (-.64) than for gun-related murders (-.32).

Education plays a similar role in moderating gun death, with more highly-educated metros having lower levels of all types of gun death. The share of adults that are college grads is negatively correlated with of gun death overall (-.57), suicides (-.52), and murders (-.46) (Florida, Geography).

So, perhaps surprisingly, or perhaps not,  Florida is claiming that there is a correlation between unemployment, economic advantage (or disadvantage), race, and education level (or lack thereof) among other factors (like if people drive to work alone or carpool). That, in fact, population density does not necessarily play a large determining factor in the role gun violence and suicide will play within a population.

Florida closes summarizing his findings rather poignantly:

“Death by gun clearly reflects the class divides which vex America, being substantially more likely in poorer, less advantaged places. And this concentrated nature of gun violence makes it easier for those in more affluent and sheltered places to ignore its consequences (Florida, Geography).”

So, if this isn’t the right time to talk about the regulation of gun control when is it appropriate?

4 thoughts on “WTH America!

  1. Pingback: A little bit of fun | living the american dream in europe

  2. You are 15 times more likely to get shot and killed in the US than in Germany. Makes me feel safer. In the Dominican Republic you are 5 times more likely to get shot and killed than in the US.

  3. Pingback: Not the end of the world but, | living the american dream in europe

  4. Pingback: Living the American Dream…2012 in review | living the american dream in europe

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