Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Politics: Why can't we have gun laws like Country X?

One hears this canard all the time. "Why can't our gun laws be like those in Country X? They have so many fewer senseless killings than we do!" Among more inept pundits, this homily is trotted out in the complete absence of differences between "Rate" and "Absolute Number," but those clever enough to dig will note that the Rate in the US doesn't exactly cover us in glory, either.

However, the comparison of gun murder rates between the US and country X often overlooks other things, too. Although the British Home Office was caught red-handed "cooking the books" in their response to the media-hyped "crime wave" in England, I don't think things are as bad as the Brit tabloids would like us to believe. Murder rates with guns are higher in the US than in Canada, the UK, or Germany. I get kinda leery whenever that fact is trotted out as "proof" of anything, however, because our homicide rates are also stratospherically higher than these nations in the categories of knife-, blunt object- and bare hand-inflicted murders.

Does Canada have a more efficient steak knife registration program? Better background checks when purchasing cleavers and Stanley knives?

Are they stricter about Louisville Sluggers and tire irons in the UK? Are there weight limits on candelabra?

Is Germany's prohibition of "assault hands" with more than ten fingers responsible for their lower rate of murders committed with no weapon at all?

Our absolute murder rate is higher, but guns obviously aren't the causative variable. Figures don't lie, but liars figure...

(BTW: the rate of people killed with terrorist bombs, especially those in vehicles, is astronomically higher in parts of the EEC, but I don't see the UK moving to ban private vehicles. Although I shouldn't be giving them any ideas... )

I wonder about certain other types of crime, however. F'r instance, based on anecdotal evidence, motorcycle theft is a huge problem in the UK. I've e-corresponded off and on with many a rider in the UK and they've all had at least one bike nicked, as has pretty much everyone they know. I've been riding for almost 14 years here in the states, and in that time only one person I know has had a bike stolen. The rate of "Hot Burglaries" (or, as we call them here in the 'States, "Home Invasions") are higher in the land of U.K.an'tshootback, too. Makes one wonder…

Lies, damn lies, and statistics: When presented with a number, one should always turn that number over to see what slithers out from underneath it.


Dr. StrangeGun said...

"Is Germany's prohibition of "assault hands" with more than ten fingers responsible for their lower rate of murders committed with no weapon at all?"

I think Germany took care of the unregistered polydact issue back in the 30's...

Anonymous said...

Billlls law of election year rhetoric states that:
"If someone quotes percentages at you, the real story is in the absolute numbers, and vice versa."

"Crime doubled last year!"
vs. "We issued 2 parking tickets last year."
"X number of children died violently last year!"
vs: "99% of them while participating in felonious behavior, either at the hands of their peers, or the police."