Firearms Crime in the US

· Informative Research

Originally Published February 4, 2013
During my browsing of internet news, I’ve been seeing a lot of graphical analyses of data which show the United States as insanely high for criminal activity involving firearms.

One such trove of data was Australian analyst/blogger Mark Reid. His graphs (example shown) have turned up on a number of other blogs and news feeds as “proof” that guns have basically made the U.S. into a shooting gallery for thugs and criminals.
With all due respect to a fellow analyst, these graphs struck me with two questions: (1) Considering that the U.S. is most often expected by the world to use British territories (like UK and Australia) as a model for excellence, does no one remember that we here in the U.S. wrote a little note to the British government telling them what we thought of their ways of progress? And of more factual concern, (2) Why does this data not correspond to what we here in the U.S. see being played out? Granted, there are gun homicides here every day. But we’re not a shooting gallery like the image that’s being displayed of us.
So I did some analyses of my own. I didn’t find anything that hasn’t been posted numerous times before by gun rights groups, and because of that I wasn’t going to blog this at all. But some friends encouraged me to post it since I’d already done the ground work.

Analytical Methods
In my methods, I used strictly the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for my data source, rather than using Wikipedia (as Reid did) which includes lawful self-defense killings, accidents, and suicides as “firearms killings.” I also would like to plainly express that I have not simply “parroted” this data from a conservative website. I’ve researched this data on my own and have independently come to the same conclusion as gun rights groups have come.
I surveyed various crime data from only 2010 for the U.S., which has gun freedom, and U.K. (Britain and Wales), Australia, and New Zealand, which all have strict gun control law. For the rates of homicides by firearms, the 2010 data was not available for all four countries, so I used the percent rate figures from 2008 instead, applying the rates to 2010 crime rates, which should be reasonably close. Also, I was going to include Sexual Assault in my survey since it is a major crime factor, but strangely enough, the UNODC did not have this data available for these countries. Note also that the UNODC did not give data for armed non-homicidal crimes, which would have been very useful for evaluation. Finally, all data is given as a rate of offenses per 100,000 population so that the numbers are standardized and can be effectively compared to one another.

Graphical Results

The total homicide data showed the U.S. was much higher than these other three countries.

Combined with the Homicide Graph 2010 specifying homicides by firearms, this gives the incriminating data that Reid and others are using to correlate gun ownership with crime. Note the scale of this graph is 0-6 homicides per 100,000 people.

I next looked at the non-homicide crime rates of these three countries to see if any conclusions could be made about gun control affecting total crime. My results are shown below. Note the scales of these graphs are in hundreds and thousands of crimes per 100,000 people.

As shown in this graph, assault in the U.S. is the lowest of these four countries, with the U.K. leading the pack by over twice the rate of assault in the U.S.

The results for auto theft was highest in New Zealand, at just under twice the rate for the U.S. The U.K. rate was the lowest. I’m not sure why this rate is markedly low unless it correlates with the low number of private vehicles in the U.K.

Once again, the U.S. scored lowest in burglary (defined as theft within restricted premises). New Zealand showed the highest rate, again at nearly twice that of the U.S.

The data for robbery (defined as theft apart from burglary and auto theft) was considerably different than the other crimes, showing the U.K. leading with the U.S. closely following.

I then wanted to make a comparison of the totals for the listed non-homicidal crimes for these countries in order to give a picture of whether or not the overall crime rate was affected by gun control. To do so, I summed the rates (so they are normalized) into the total non-homicidal graph shown below.

As shown, the U.S. scored lowest of the four countries, with New Zealand and U.K. showing substantial leads.

As a last figure, I combined total homicide data with the non-homicide data, including a shaded area for homicides by firearms, to give an idea of the role firearms play in the crime of these countries, and thus the impact that gun control might play in controlling total crime.

As the graph legend shows, firearms play such a small role in total crime that the data isn’t even visible on this graph (remember the differences in the scales of the crime graphs).

So what can we draw from this? That while the real data may show that on a small scale the U.S. leads in firearm homicides, that certainly does not imply that we are a shooting gallery for criminals. What it implies is that, while the U.S. has the lowest overall crime rating of these four countries, U.S. crimes tend to be more lethal. So the graphs that analysts like Reid are pushing down the public’s throat are incomplete, which makes them deceptively “fudged” reports.
As I stated at the intro to this analysis, this is only crime data from 2010. The complimentary analysis would be to check the crime stats of each of the gun-controlled countries during years before and after the institution of gun control laws. I have not done that analysis because it has been done many times by other sites (such as here), and the results consistently show that overall crime rises sharply after gun control laws are enforced.

So why are we letting British territories influence our politics? When we look at the overall data, they clearly have missed the boat on crime control.

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