Sunday, March 03, 2013

Thoughts on the gun debate part 3

In the last rock, we looked at the murder rate in England after the gun bad following Dunblaine, and came up with "basically no effect."

That is to say, after the handgun ban went into effect in England, in January of '97, from then until 2003, the homicide rate went up from 11.5 per million to 18 per million.  I.E., in the six years following the handgun ban, the murder rate in England went up by 1.5.  Meanwhile, in the U.S, from 1990 to 2003, the murder rate fell from 9.8 to 5.5 per 100,000, despite the fact that during that time the number of handguns in the U.S. rose by more than 2 million.

From 2003 to 2011, the murder rate in England fell from 18 per M back to the 11.5 per M that it was at the time of the ban.   Meanwhile from 2003 to 2011 the murder rate in the US decreased at a slower rate, from 5.5 to 4.8 per 100K despite millions more guns making their way into the US population.

This suggests that at the very least, handguns don't by themselves drive the murder rate.

Note to Piers Morgan.  No, I am not quoting the number of GUN DEATHS.  A death is a death.

Moving on then, there are any number of people who take the position that guns are a public health issue. There are several assertions that need to be addressed.  The first is that most US suicides are by gun, and that when a person uses a gun to attempt suicide they're more likely to be successful than other methods, so aggressive gun control should reduce the suicide rate. It certainly makes sense on face, and seems worth looking into.

If we look at the effectiveness of suicide attempts, we go to the CDC and find this:

Source: CDC Suicide statistics

Basically, guns and suffocation work.  Everything else, not so much.

Suicide rates in the US have been pretty stable for a long time.  From 1990 to 2000 they fell from 14 per 100K to 12.5 per 100K, and since 2000 have risen from 12.5 to 13.  Of course, during those 20 years, the number of guns in the U.S. increased by many millions, so gun availability doesn't seem to be driving suicide rates.  (The black line is everyone.  In all nations, men kill themselves more frequently than women.)

It might be interesting to compare that information with a country which has, for all practical purposes utterly banned the personal possession of firearms.  Japan is probably the best choice, and when we look at Japan, we find this:  

As you can see, the suicide rate in Japan has ranged from around 16 to around 23 per 100k since 1990. During the same period in Russia (another place with strict gun control) the rate has gotten over 30!  So, again, it doesn't look like guns drive the suicide rate.

More on public health in the next rock.

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