Posted by Curt on 3 April, 2013 at 2:04 pm. 2 comments already!


Tom Maguire @ JustOneMinute:

The NY Times continues their contribution to a serious national dialogue on guns with these two old chestnuts. First, from a piece on the urgent yet faltering effort to expand background checks:

But no background check is required for about 40 percent of gun purchases, including those made online or at gun shows, federal officials estimate.

Federal officials who offer that estimate, including Obama, are gettingThree Pinocchios from WaPo “FactChecker” Glenn Kessler. His gist – the 40% figure comes from a stale 1994 study and includes gifts and estate transfers. A better estimate is about 20%.

The Times then reprises the gun violence/gun homicides game, although more transparently than last time:

Report Links High Rates of Gun Violence to Weak State Regulations


Many states with the weakest gun laws have the worst rates of gun violence, ranking high on numerous indicators, like gun homicides and suicides, firearm deaths of children, and killings of law enforcement officers, according to a report to be issued Wednesday by the liberal Center for American Progress.

At least they mention suicides; the last time they ran this con they completely omitted the word.

Alaska ranked first in overall gun deaths, the report found, with 20.28 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 — more than twice the national average — followed by Louisiana and Montana, all states that prior analyses have judged to have weak gun laws. Eight of the states with the highest levels of gun violence were among the 25 with the weakest gun laws, the report found.

Yeah, yeah. The last report was ranking states like Montana high on gun violence based on a high suicide rate and a very low homicide rate. I am confident that the same pattern held up one year later. And if eight of the top ten are among the lower half of all states in terms of their laws, is that a stastically meaningful correlation? I would have thought pure chance would put five of the top ten in the lower 25. Where is Nate Silver when the Times needs him!?! [Per thisbinomial calculator, the odds of getting 8, 9 or 10 of the Top Ten states landing in the lower 25 are about 5.4% if the underlying process is 50/50. Put another way, if a coin was tossed for each of the top ten and each state coming up heads was put in the lower 25, there would be about a 5.4% chance of getting 8, 9 or 10 heads.)

Late in the story the fly in the ointment is noted again:

Dr. Azrael, of Harvard, noted that the factors that were driving gun violence differed from state to state — in states like Montana and Idaho, for example, the rate of gun suicides greatly outstrips the rate of homicides committed with firearms.

It will be interesting to peruse the study when it hits the intertubes. The lead tells us that low control states score high on “numerous” indicators, such as “gun homicides and suicides, firearm deaths of children, and killings of law enforcement officers”. Yet I think we will find states like Montana ranking high on just one factor. The suspense mounts!

Should suicides be counted in the overall gun violence statistics? I would boldly say “No”, and “Maybe”. If the topic is making mental health part of a robust background check system, and denying guns to people judged to be at risk of suicide, then yes, the suicide rate is relevant.

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