Free Markets, Free People

Gun ownership doesn’t correlate with murder rates

In a recent study two Harvard professors determined that banning guns will not solve the violence or murder problem. That in fact, guns really have nothing to do with it. Instead it is instead a matter of culture.

The reason that gun ownership doesn’t correlate with murder rates, the authors show, is that violent crime rates are determined instead by underlying cultural factors.  “Ordinary people,” they note, “simply do not murder.”  Rather, “the murderers are a small minority of extreme antisocial aberrants who manage to obtain guns whatever the level of gun ownership” in their society.

Therefore, “banning guns cannot alleviate the socio-cultural and economic factors that are the real determinants of violence and crime rates.”  According to Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser, “there is no reason for laws prohibiting gun possession by ordinary, law-abiding, responsible adults because such people virtually never commit murder.  If one accepts that such adults are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to commit it, disarming them becomes not just unproductive but counter-productive.”

The sort of reasoning Kates and Mauser use for  seems to be foreign to those who want to ban guns. It is not a problem of law abiding citizens because, as the authors state, law-abiding citizens don’t commit murder. Consequently, taking their guns away will have no fact other than to make them easier victims. The counter gun culture tries very hard to correlate guns with violence and murder. But looking at the number of guns owned in America as well as the number of Americans who own guns (45 – 52 million), we see that in reality gun crime and gun violence are statistically small.   As the authors state disarming law-abiding citizens is “not just unproductive but counterproductive.”

Additionally, they use these things called “facts” to gut  the myths that have grown up around gun ownership and violence. For instance, the myth surrounding the Soviet Union and its strict gun control.

In their piece entitled Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and some Domestic Evidence, Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser eviscerate “the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths.”  In so doing, the authors provide fascinating historical insight into astronomical murder rates in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they dispel the myths that widespread gun ownership is somehow unique to the United States or that America suffers from the developed world’s highest murder rate.

To the contrary, they establish that Soviet murder rates far exceeded American murder rates, and continue to do so today, despite Russia’s extremely stringent gun prohibitions.  By 2004, they show, the Russian murder rate was nearly four times higher than the American rate.

The authors also look at the gun control policies in Europe and find evidence that counters the correlation between gun ownership and violence.

More fundamentally, Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser demonstrate that other developed nations such as Norway, Finland, Germany, France and Denmark maintain high rates of gun ownership, yet possess murder rates lower than other developed nations in which gun ownership is much more restricted.

For example, handguns are outlawed in Luxembourg, and gun ownership extremely rare, yet its murder rate is nine times greater than in Germany, which has one of the highest gun ownership rates in Europe.  As another example, Hungary’s murder rate is nearly three times higher than nearby Austria’s, but Austria’s gun ownership rate is over eight times higher than Hungary’s.  “Norway,” they note, “has far and away Western Europe’s highest household gun ownership rate (32%), but also its lowest murder rate.  The Netherlands,” in contrast, “has the lowest gun ownership rate in Western Europe (1.9%) … yet the Dutch gun murder rate is higher than the Norwegian.”

Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser proceed to dispel the mainstream misconception that lower rates of violence in Europe are somehow attributable to gun control laws.  Instead, they reveal, “murder in Europe was at an all-time low before the gun controls were introduced.”  As the authors note, “strict controls did not stem the general trend of ever-growing violent crime throughout the post-WWII industrialized world.”

Citing England, for instance, they reveal that “when it had no firearms restrictions [in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries], England had little violent crime.”  By the late 1990s, however, “England moved from stringent controls to a complete ban on all handguns and many types of long guns.”  As a result, “by the year 2000, violent crime had so increased that England and Wales had Europe’s highest violent crime rate, far surpassing even the United States.”  In America, on the other hand, “despite constant and substantially increasing gun ownership, the United States saw progressive and dramatic reductions in criminal violence in the 1990s.”

So, if one is honest and reads the evidence clearly, they are left with the understanding that the attempted correlation between gun ownership and violence doesn’t really exist. In fact, it appears that it is indeed the culture that is the cause of violence. One could even argue that disarming the public makes them the culture of victims. For example, one of the things we hear about England is that there has been a vast increase in “hot burglaries” since firearms have been banned. That ban has emboldened the criminals. They no longer fear the homeowner. They know the homeowner does not have a gun. Why? Because they’re law-abiding citizens.

Finally, Kates and Mauser talk about the seeming change in American culture and its impact on violent crime.

Critically, Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser note that “the fall in the American crime rate is even more impressive when compared with the rest of the world,” where 18 of the 25 countries surveyed by the British Home Office suffered violent crime increases during that same period.

Furthermore, the authors highlight the important point that while the American gun murder rate often exceeds that in other nations, the overall per capita murder rate in other nations (including other means such as strangling, stabbing, beating, etc.) is oftentimes much higher than in America.

As should be obvious to anyone, those that are murdered really don’t care about the means that murder. Dead is dead.   The key to reducing murder is cultural. It has nothing to do with the weapon involved. As Kates and Mauser pointed out the per capita murder rate in other nations is often higher than ours. And many if not most of those include countries with strict gun bans.

It should seem clear, given the experience of many European countries with strict gun control, that banning guns does not solve the murder and violence problem. It would be nice for a change if we would learn from the experience of others. As horrific as the Newtown massacre was, it wasn’t perpetrated by a person anyone would consider a law-abiding citizen.  In fact, he had no concept of the principle of law or his responsibility to abide by it.

If we want to learn from that incident, the lesson isn’t about guns.  It’s about how inadequate our means of handling those who pose a danger to society really are.  Megan McArdle does a good job of discussing that very important point.

This study seems to point to what many would argue is obvious. However there is a strong, emotional lobby that continues to want to ignore the primary problem in favor of banning the instrument of murder in this particular case. It is foolish and shortsighted.  It would be feel-good legislation, made in haste as usual and in the end accomplishing nothing. We have a history of knee jerk legislation made in haste in which the consequences are unforeseen and usually unintended.

What should be clear is we don’t want to end up like England.


19 Responses to Gun ownership doesn’t correlate with murder rates

  • The Soviet Union during the cold war.  I wonder if they counted state sponsored murder because the biggest psycho killer there was none other than the government.

    • True, back in the 20s and 30s. By the 50s the USSR wawsn’t murdering many of its own people.


    “And they’re mostly in the suburbs and rural areas where there is virtually no crime and no murder.”

    Jabba the Moore–On Fox Butterfields himself…!!! Too funny…!!!
    And, as usual, the modern Collective has tried to invert history.
    The NRA and the NAACP worked together in re-arming and fighting legal battles alongside blacks in the racist Deemocrat south.
    Funny, lying Collectivist…!!!!

  • Don’t worry, they’re starting to move off guns to violent video games now. Call of Duty is going to be next.

  • What we need, clearly, is a law banning assault murders.
    Perhaps we should put up signs around the schools and other such places – “no murder zone”.
    We could even have signs in front of churches, government buildings, sports venues, malls, schools, “No murders allowed, police take notice” with a red circle and slash over a picture of someone being murdered.
    I could have sworn we had laws against murder, but the ACLU probably got rid of it because it mixed church and state.
    6th commandment – Thou shalt not commit murder.

  • There have been a variety of studies, each showing contrary conclusions on the issue of gun ownership versus murder rates.  And academics will continue to evaluate the variables in each new study.  But I’m more interested in practical results.
    If there were restrictions on how many rounds a magazine could hold, the shooter would be required to change magazines when the number of cartridges—say ten—were spent, or change to an alternate weapon.  (Even if magazines were taped together, the total capacity would be less than a drum.)  In either event, this situation would allow some targets to maneuver into a position to rush and subdue the shooter—as was the case in Tucson—further facilitated by the possibility of the firearm jamming during magazine change-over.
    The only people that would be negatively affect by limitation of large capacity magazines would be those  who anticipate going to war with the government’s Abrams tanks and other sophisticated armament, with their stock pile of AR-15s and other simple, individual arms.  Here’s a newsflash for those persons:  This feat of toppling an unrighteous government by force would not be the same as freedom fighters versus the Syrian government.

    • The clown, according to police, had hundreds of rounds in an unspecified number of magazines of unspecified size.   Didn’t say anything about using a drum.   Which 8 year olds were going to maneuver to charge the shooter during magazine change over?
      Might I remind you, former Marine, the average American WWII infantryman carried around 100 rounds of 30-06 ammo in stripper clips of 8 rounds each as a COMBAT LOAD for ASSAULTS on trained men from other for real honest to God trying to kill you armies.  How’d that work out for Hirohito and Hitler?
      If the ‘government’ fears the ‘population’ enough, clown, you don’t get to the point where the population has to do a damned thing other than go about their daily business.

      • The VA Tech killer only had 10 and 15 round magazines (which are NOT “clips”).  He reloaded several times, and was targeting young adults.
        The U.S. Army recently field-tested the best M4.  Failures to feed were a problem, and they are redesigning their standard mags.
        But morons will continue to believe superstitious nonsense leads to “practical results”.

        • If the asshole at Newtown was worried, at all, about being rushed during magazine changes, he wouldn’t have gone to the gun-free elementary school to do his slaughter.
          You can reload a 1903 Springfield rifle with a lot of 5 round stripper clips during 20 minutes MARINE.
          A sustained rate of accurate fire for a 1903, is between 13 and 14 rounds a minute.

        • Sorry, man, meant for Washing Machine Tad.

        • The average gun assault involves less than an entire clip.
          Are we going to legislate based on the worst case ?  That would mean no cars, airplanes, heavy appliances, ladders, marbles or popcorn.

    • The only people that would be negatively affect by limitation of large capacity magazines would be…

      Look up “home invasion”.  Then look up that “M” word.

    • And one of the blessing of the US has been we didn’t have ‘tribes’ to determine who ran the government, so you couldn’t draw your collection of tyrannical assholes from one like minded group….but we’re working on it.

    • Reloading doesn’t take long… And we’ll see what unarmed people want to play hero and rush in hopes they get there before the gun is ready. The only practical effect will be to make the guy carry more clips. Hooray?

    • The obvious fact is that you and other Democrats were just fine with Obama and Holder running guns to Mexico. None of you care about saving lives. It is all about power and control.

      An AR-15 carbine with 30 round mags is an excellent choice for home defense as well as community defense in situations like the LA riots. One 30 round magazine would provide ample ammo to defend the home from two or three home invaders with sufficient spare ammo so that an aveage home owner can defend without the need to reload during the stress of the home invasion.

      As far as toppling governments, the US military isn’t exactly well situated to overcome the American people. And in such an event it is unlikely the whole of the military will stand on one side or the other. The real issue in such an event depends upon the determination and will of the American people, magazine capacity isn’t a major determinent of the outcome.

      In my opinion the major value of private arms legally owned, particularly within the view of an individual right to bear arms, is the moral supperiority of such an armed populace. I think the real goal of gun banners is to attack this moral supperiority. The goal is to reduce the people to dependence and weak mindedness. Guns are dangerous to the left becauser they support virtue and signify virtue. Gun control is just another part of the left’s war on American culture. With this in mind, re-read my first sentance.

  • Back to the Wiki Chart to make the point about murder rates and guns:
    Russia, Mexico, Greenland, Brazil
    ….how’s gun control working out for em murder wise….

  • I went to see “The Hobbit” the other night, and I was struck that there must have been hundreds of goblins and orcs killed and injuries in the movie without the use if a single gun.