Friday, February 15, 2013

Do Guns Prevent Suicide?

Wow.  Talk about a moving target.  We hate guns because the level of violence is rising sharply.  (No, it isn't, it's falling sharply).  Oh....okay, we hate guns because they cause (CAUSE!) suicides.

My good friend Prof. Greene at NC State has a piece where he calls several remarkably illogical arguments "nice."

The problem is that the facts are these:

The total level of gun violence has fallen dramatically since 1980.  DRA.MA.TIC.ALLY.

If you remove suicides and drug crimes, in fact, the danger of gun violence is negligible.

A few highly over-sensationalized incidents have shoved the lefty elite into a hissy fit, with their little private high school boxers in tight knots.  So they shriek and yelp that "we" have to "do" "something" (yup, three different scare quote words).

To his credit, Prof. Greene does at least focus on suicides, where the data don't directly contradict his argument.

Except, wait...the data comparing national suicide rates DO directly contradict his argument.  If guns cause suicides, then one would expect the nations with the most guns to have the highest suicide rates, right?

Not so much.  In fact, the correlation between suicide rate and gun ownership is weakly INVERSE.  That's right, guns CURE suicide!  The US, with high gun ownership, has fewer suicides than the gun control icons of Austria, France, New Zealand, Belgium, Japan, and of course FAR below those happy gunless states of Russia and China. 

Now, I'll admit that naive correlations like that don't mean much, and I'm not serious.   Guns do NOT cure suicide. But surely that one means at least as much as the equally naive correlations being whooped up by the good Prof. Greene:  guns also do not CAUSE suicide, though it may be that a person contemplating suicide might use a gun if he has one.  Clearly it is NOT true that in South Korea people say, "I want to commit suicide, but I can't, because I don't have a gun!"

Claiming that taking guns away reduces suicides is at best a within-country measure, and there is no reason to believe the effect would be significant.


Squarely Rooted said...

So, as the lefty elite, all I have to say is this:

Guns increase the lethality of violence.

Here is a great example of this:

According to most measures, the United Kingdom is a considerably [*] more violent society than the United States. 2.8% of the British experience assault compared with 1.2% of Americans. Rape, 0.9% to 0.4%. Overall crime, all types, is experienced by 26.4% of the British compared with 21.1% of Americans. 82% of Americans “feel safe” walking in the dark, contrasted with only 70% of the British...

There is, however, one rate statistic where the US overwhelmingly wins: homicide.

According to these data, in one year the US had 9146 homicides by firearm, England and Wales, 41. 60% of all homicides in the US were by firearm, 6.6% in England and Wales. This resolves to 15,243 total homicides in the US, 621 in the UK. The firearm-assisted homicide rate per 100,000 in the US is 2.97; only 0.07 in England and Wales.

So, the US has a 4.8 murder rate overall, whereas the UK has a 1.2 murder rate. But the UK has a higher rate of violent encounters - more assaults, more robberies. Yet fewer people killed.

Could it be, in economist-talk, that guns lower the marginal cost of killing somebody? And therefore you have more killings?

Couldn't be.

kebko said...

Squarely rooted, is there a chance that what you have found is evidence that the presence of guns in self defense is causing a remarkable reduction in non-gun violence? If we get rid of guns, will we suddenly find ourselves feeling less safe walking in the dark?
Excellent find! Thanks for the research!

Squarely Rooted said...

OK, let's roll with that...then there's just a trade-off, probably a linear one, between gun violence and non-gun violence, right? Which one do you prefer?