Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jared Lee Loughner and Gun Crime

A subject often debated by libertarians is gun ownership and gun control. Though I suspect most libertarians would, like me, prefer as few restrictions on gun ownership as possible, I suspect that left libertarians might actually prefer outlawing guns altogether, which would mean that Second Amendment issues are not necessarily a Libertarian universal cause.

Jared Lee LoughnerThese days, any debate on gun control is (or, seemingly, must be) taken over by the recent news of a massacre perpetrated by what appears to be a schizophrenic individual, Jared Lee Loughner. And just as usual, the issue of how and why did a mentally ill person get worse and was left untreated, to his own devices, is overshadowed by “magnet-issues” such as gun control, Sarah Palin’s bull's-eye map, fringe right vs Obama-care, the “vitriolic discourse” etc.

Couldn’t help wondering: is his black eye evidence of some police TLC? Are the rights of prisoners we just don’t like worth less or that applies only to people with mental problems? Anyways, Jon Stewart has a nice comment on the tragedy, linked below (tds).

a facebook comment

A friend of mine has recently made the following comment:

just like we all have to take our shoes off, get body scanned and otherwise go through annoying security at airports due to some lone assholes trying to blow up planes, maybe americans should give up their precious right to bear arms just because of some other assholes who are trigger happy.

I lovingly disagreed and prodded by her I expanded to the following:

Your comment seems to be driven by the frustration of going through the idiotic, useless and irrelevant security theatre (eh); the part with guns is a non-sequitur (video). In fact, packing guns when traveling is one way to make sure that your luggage will not be lost and will be well-tracked.

As for guns in general, trigger-happy assholes will exist whether gun ownership is legal or not. Legally-owned guns are almost never used to commit crimes (less than 0.5%). When a person dies as a result of legally-owned gun use, that's usually the owner. The overwhelming majority of crimes are committed with illegal guns (i.e., more than 99.5%).

I also provided a link to a discussion suggesting that Australia and UK recorded higher crime rates after banning handguns (similar to Washington DC). My friend then replied that

  1. while I unfortunately do not have time to check tons of references and make a truly informed opinion, I will tend to take for relatively accurate gun-con (link in sources, below)
  2. more gun ownership leads to more illegal guns, as legal guns are stolen and series erased. Gun owners whose gun was stolen bear zero responsibility in this case.
  3. the huge gap between gun related crimes and accidents in America and Europe, which can not be blamed on 'cultural differences'. Wiki-gun-v: Gun homicide rate is less than 1:100K in Europe vs 3 in USA.
  4. It is amazing that an attack such as the recent one on a US congresswoman left with dead does not spark much of a debate in the US. Surely it must be normal that teenagers can lay their hands on guns and kill people at will.

what i think

I can certainly continue this “debate”, but my friend’s points 1. and 4. seem to indicate that it will likely be overrun by emotion and devoid of reason which means that the risk of alienating my friend in this debate far outweighs any potential “debating pleasure”. I will simply list my thoughts in point form and will return to this subject at a later date.

  1. To have a proper debate, we’d need to clarify what are trying to prove / accomplish. So far, we have not discussed but merely assumed a relationship between gun ownership per capita and crime. Also, are we considering total gun ownership or household gun ownership? By “gun control” are we referring to total ban, registration, partial ban or what? Finally, discounting BBC reporting and UK Police data in favour of some source suggested by an Internet page because that’s what suits the pro-gun-control argument seems rather hazardous to reason.
  2. There might be a link more gun ownership –> more illegal guns, but the evidence we have (previously provided) seems to suggest that banning guns actually increases illegal gun ownership as well as gun crime rates in the long run. A similar effect is seen with most morality-based legislation: Prohibition increased alcohol consumption and the same goes for drugs (zamo - Doc). When looking at the big picture, “control” laws achieve their objective in the short term, but are counterproductive in the long run, increasing demand for what they are trying to ban (see wiki-scarcity).
  3. Comparing “Europe” with “USA” fails to take into consideration that Finland, Norway and Switzerland have all relaxed gun ownership legislation but also have much lower gun crime rates than US. Canada also has a higher gun ownership rate than Europe as a whole and also higher per capita gun ownership, but still a lower crime rate than many countries with more stringent gun laws / less ownership. It seems to me that crime rates correlate more closely with rates of incarceration and severity of sentencing. While stiffer penalties may initially reduce crime and make victims and powerless, fearful people feel good, they are also counterproductive for the long haul. The more time people spend in prison the less likely they are to re-enter society. USA would do better by decreasing its incarceration rate – the highest in the world – and reduce the profit motive in imprisonment (private prisons) as well as experiment with drug legalization if the intent is to decrease fatalities and rates of crimes.
  4. Adding the recent tragedy to this debate seems to be an attempt to exploit it. Nobody called for banning planes after 9/11. There are more people dying in traffic accidents: in 2002 (the latest year I could find data for both), there were 14.94 auto fatalities vs 11.5 who died in gun crime for each 100000 people, yet nobody is calling for car bans. Though the call for stricter gun laws is rejuvenated with each mentally ill massacre, using this logic one could also ask for banning Koreans after the Virginia Tech massacre or banning Goth movements after Columbine or banning schools or students. Banning, like any anal retentive move / morality-based legislation seems like an easy answer yet it never works: see the echoes of the Economist prostitution debate or the Swiss minarets.


Watching the two sides of this “war” from afar, one is hard-pressed to understand. On one side, you have the “gun lovers”, mostly rednecks, who display a very strong emotional attachment to their guns and their rights. Many have very large collections, investing small fortunes in buying and keeping them. Some belong to gun clubs where they seem to be in juvenile competitions on who can extend his penis with the most guns. On the other, you have people - mostly women -who feel threatened by these arsenals, displaying hoplophobia and seeing threats where none exist. And then you have white folks from both sides giving in to their anal-retentive instincts and supporting tough sentencing laws for underlying racist reasons (penis envy, crown) more so than safety or security. People on the left seem to share the overwhelming yet erroneous belief that banning guns will make everybody safer; people on the right feel that this is the first step toward communism; the middle tries to figure out WhyTF is everyone so obsessed.

LE: Doesn’t this guy seem to be a happy Metropolis (1927) dude?

Maybe watching the following videos might help..

Laughs: Chris Rock, William Shatner, DEA, 1/2 H, UniqueFilm, AP and Archie Bunker.  Achtung: Myths, Soviet and Nazi. CBS: Katie Couric, Outrage, Right, Feinstein, J_nq3-mUVZ8. TYT: Canada, SC, GC, Out of Control, Vtech, Clinton. FOX: nuts, Giuliani, Schiff, Hannity, Glenn, Beck, Stossel, Ventura.


Sources / More info: economist-victims, economist-az-soaring, economist-guns-usc, wiki-scarcity, auto-fatalities, gun-fatalities, fb-bbc-stories, bbc-handgun, dt-sydney, ind-capital, gun-con, fox-mental, wiki-gun-v, wiki-gun-v-us, wiki-pol-arg-us, wiki-crime-us, wiki-list-gun-o, wiki-list-firearm, wiki-crime-cnd, wiki-gunpol-cnd, wiki-gunpol, wiki-bowling-cnd, wiki-us-imprisonment, wiki-us-incarceration, wiki-incarceration, tds-cc, tds-cn, dea-suecky, gun-own, fp-armed, yt-sec-th

UNODC: Country 199x Population %Households Guns
USA 3 257783004 39
Norway 3 4324815 32
Canada 2 28120065 29.1
Switzerland 4 7021000 27.2
Finland 4 5088333 23.2
France 4 57915450 22.6
New Zealand 3 3458850 22.3
Australia 4 17838401 19.4
Belgium 0 9967387 16.6
Italy 2 56764854 16
Sweden 3 8718571 15.1
Spain 3 39086079 13.1
Germany 4 81338093 8.9
N. Ireland 4 1641711 8.4
Scotland 4 5132400 4.7
England/Wales 2 51429000 4.7
Netherlands 4 15382830 1.9

PDFs: [Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy] [UNODC firearms] [Canada: Pro Gun Control] [Gender] [Gun Control Around the World] [Do Gun Laws Improve Public Safety?] [Peace or Freedom] [Maclean's] [rand] [crime canada us] [UNODC homicide] [Prevention DOJ] [2003 suicidology] [gun macro] [suicidology 2006] [Safe-Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime] [National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms] [The Characteristics and Dynamics of Gun Markets: Implications for a Supply-Side Enforcement Strategy (Final Report)] [Guns in America: National survey on private ownership and use of firearms] [Reducing Gun Violence: The Boston Gun Project's Operation Ceasefire] [Research Report: Reducing Gun Violence - Operation Ceasefire in Los Angeles] [Project Safe Neighborhoods - Fact Sheet] [Martin Killias (1993). Gun Ownership, Suicide and Homicide: An International Perspective] [Small Arms Survey 2007 part 1] [Small Arms Survey 2007 part 2] [StatsCan Homicide 2000] [Myths About Gun Control] [Harcourt, Bernard E (2004) On the NRA, Adolph Hitler, Gun Registration, and the Nazi Gun Laws: Exploring the Culture Wars (A Call to Historians)] [Halbrook, Stephen P. (2000) Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews] [Gun Ownership, Suicide and Homicide: An International Perspective, Martin Killias] [Killias-backup] [Firearm-related deaths in the United States and 35 other high- and upper-middle income countries] [Guns, violent crime and suicide in 21 countries] [US Rates of Incarceration: A Global Perspective] [Prisoners in 2009] [World Prison Population List by Roy Walmsley] [One in 100: Behand Bars in America] [Probation and Parole in the United States, 2006] [World Prison Population List. 8th edition] [America's One-Million Nonviolent Prisoners] [The Meaning of Life: Long Prison Sentences in Context] [Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994] [Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity] [Sexual Coercion Rates in Seven Midwestern Prisons for Men]

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