Great Fact, Little Fact


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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173 Responses

  1. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Thank you, Jason. Any “conversation” that isn’t grounded in a recognition of declining violent crime rates is inherently misleading. And far too people have given serious thought to the possible role of lead abatement over the past half decade. In fact we’ve been successful enough with that that we face the prospect of a future where our kids and grand kids are, on average, basically smarter than us, because they didn’t grow up eating chips of leaded paint off the walls and breathing in the fumes from leaded gasoline.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      If there’s any truth to the Flynn Effect, this would just be the continuation of historical trends.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

      I know you’re not necessarily disagreeing with what I’m about to say, but I think it needs to be said for the purpose of clarity.

      As Patrick and I seemed to agree in the comments to his post, overall violent crime (including assaults, robberies, burglary, etc.) and homicides (in specific) are two different beasts: related, but different. For example, places like the U.K have lower homicide rates but higher overall rates of violent crime.

      It is true that levels of overall violent crime, other things being equal, make homicides more likely. But, a higher prevalence of guns (especially hand guns), other things being equal, also makes homicides more likely (1 more homicide for every 10,000 gun owning household) regardless of levels of non-homicidal violent crime.

      IMO, not all things that get labelled as “violent crime” are created equal. Some of it is bar fights (IMO, this is the U.K.’s problem, by and large, though I am just thinking of anecdotes, not data) for example, and not all bar fights are equally awful in terms of the damage caused to society. That is to say, some non-homicide violent crime (though certainly not all) is not such a big problem in society. By contrast, homicides are a huge problem in damage caused, almost by definition.

      As a result, I think it is very confusing and messy to talk about overall levels of violent crime, and it will be very hard to make true generalizations (even ceteris paribus generalizations) about the very broad and messy category of violent crime. And I think our policy resources should be spent on stopping homicides as they are more damaging to society.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Fully agreed. But from what I’ve heard, those other types of violent crime are generally in decline over time–meaning over centuries, not decades–as well, in just about all developed countries. So while the rates–and rates of different types of violent crime–differ between, for example, U.S. and England, both show general declines over the long range.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot3 says:


          I just want to be clear, though, is anyone here saying that we shouldn’t enact gun control to reduce homicide rates because homicides rates are declining on their own without gun control?

          I wouldn’t agree with that for the same reasons that I wouldn’t agree that we don’t need to try to encourage people to improve their diet and level of exercise because life expectancy (and health) is improving anyway from improved medical technologies. Again, we should attack both causes of unhealth and early mortality: bad diet/no exercise AND insufficient medical technology, not just one or the other.


  2. Avatar mark boggs says:

    So you’re saying to get rid of lead bullets?Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      In many cases you can, except for hollow point rounds. Not sure how one would do hollow point without a soft metal.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Tin? Aluminum?

        Semi-serious question, semi-tongue-in-cheek.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          Steel, typically.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Steel is a soft metal?Report

            • Avatar Fnord says:

              Steel is many different metals with different properties depending on how it’s treated and what exactly goes into the alloy besides Fe.Report

              • Avatar Fnord says:

                As it happens, I don’t know if any version is soft enough for the purposes. But I do know that just because some steels are hard enough to be used in armor-piercing bullets before the widespread use of tungsten and depleted uranium, it doesn’t mean all steels are that hard.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Maybe a plastic with a steel core? Not sure what that would do to the ballistic characteristics.

          Tin is, I think, too brittle, same with aluminum. They would more likely shatter than mushroom.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        There are copper and copper-alloy hollow-point rounds that mushroom very nicely. With the added benefit that they don’t fragment like lead so often does — scattering bits and pieces of toxic metal through a surprising amount of the carcass. Pick whatever characteristic you’re concerned about with your bullets, and there are non-toxic versions that will meet or beat lead. But they are all significantly more expensive.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Are the ballistics close enough to lead that one could still practice at the range with lead, but use alloys for hunting/self-defense? I don’t mind dropping extra money on a box of cartridges that I use on race day, but lead sure is a lot cheaper when you want to put a couple hundred rounds downrange to stay proficient.Report

      • Avatar Ornithorhynchus says:

        What about zinc?Report

  3. Avatar mark boggs says:

    In all seriousness though, this is fascinating. You’ve done a tremendous job of summing up the instincts that seem to explode after an event like Newtown even though they may be fruitless and even counter-productive. Simply to say we did *something*.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Thanks. And, in all seriousness, non-lead shot is a thing now, thanks to concerns about environmental toxicity.

      Lead shot has never been a terribly important source of lead poisoning in humans, nothing certainly compared to paint or gasoline, largely because elemental lead isn’t readily absorbed in the way that tetraethyl lead or lead oxide are. I’ve probably eaten quite a few lead shot pellets in my time, as have most people who eat wild game. No big deal as long as it’s not in an absorbable molecule.Report

  4. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The idea that gun violence is declining is a bit simplistic. Wars always give us better medicine, especially trauma surgery. People are surviving gun trauma at better rates. Felony homicide is only the tip of the iceberg.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      It’s true as I understand it, yes. People are more likely to survive gunshot wounds now. But people are also less likely even to be shot in the first place, or to be raped, mugged, or to be the victims of other crimes. That can’t be explained by advances in trauma surgery.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Here’s the data you’re looking for: WISQARS. In point of fact, nonfatal firearm images are not decliningReport

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          That is certainly not the data I’m looking for, because firearm injuries in total will also include accidents. I’m not interested in accidents right now, only in violence.

          Using the proper data, nonfatal firearm-related violent crimes per 100,000 are indeed way down, in conformity with the trend I identified.

          If firearm homicides were declining only because of better trauma surgery, we should expect that number to be rising, while fatalities/homicides fell. Instead, both types of violence, fatal and nonfatal, are falling together.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Distinction without difference.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              I beg to differ.

              The FBI stats consider violent acts while excluding accidents. That’s a meaningful difference.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I said felony homicide is only the tip of the iceberg. You can have your tip, okay? I’ll go with the simple proposition that gun trauma is a continuing nightmare which hasn’t exactly declined.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                You’re not talking about the thing BP wants you to talk about, so therefore you’re wrong.

                Actually, BP moved the goalposts there. First he suggested gun violence wasn’t down, just gun deaths, due to better trauma care. Then when you pointed out that violent crime overall, not just gun deaths, are down, he shifted to focusing on gun accidents, rather than violence.

                He’s got two iceberg tips there, and he’ll focus on whichever is most convenient at the moment.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Our Problems Remain EpistemologicalReport

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I haven’t moved any goalposts, Hanley. Everything in this post I’ve already said in comments of my own, including the point that gun crime has actually declined over time. But then I got to thinking, what about this moron? Guy walks into a gun show and shoots himself in the leg. Where does he fit into the picture?

                Turns out he and people like him are surprisingly common. Remember that old NRA slogan, guns don’t kill people, people kill people? Well, they don’t always kill people. Lots of people survive their wounds and it does seem meaningful to attribute the decline in felony homicide to increased victim survival rates.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Of course you moved the goalpost, from violence to accidents. It’s not that accidents aren’t worth concern and discussion, too, it’s just that it’s not exactly where you started, which was at gun “violence.”

                I won’t argue further about it. The objection’s on the record, for all to judge on their own.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                it does seem meaningful to attribute the decline in felony homicide to increased victim survival rates

                Part of the decline. And we know that’s true. But when violent crime overall is down, it’s not meaningful to attribute the whole decline in felony homicide to increased survival rates.

                You don’t believe in mon-causal explanations of a complex world any more than I do.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The idea that gun violence is declining is a bit simplistic.

                That was my point. All this optimistic autosuggestion simply won’t do. Keep chanting your happy little mantras about how every day and in every way things are getting better ‘n better. Maybe it will make you feel better and better. But the integer value of nonfatal gunshot wounds has not gone down. It has kept up with population on a percentage basis.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The idea that gun violence is declining is a bit simplistic.

                Except that it’s not, because it is.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                DOJ data. Both firearm related crime and non-fatal firearm crime rates have decline.

                Focus on accidents, you really do have a legitimate point there, even though shifting to it was a moving of the goalposts.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I say it’s a distinction without difference, because we’ve got crap like this happening all the time. Moving the goalposts, my hairy white ass. Everything’s just fine, folks, gun violence is going down because like fucking Humpty Dumpty, I get to define what violence is and what isn’t and get to say you’re moving the goalposts if it isn’t actually a crime.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Getting accidentally shot by a gun is not violent?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Getting accidentally shot by a gun is not violent?

                It’s not violence as the word is typically used. Mens rea counts for something, after all.

                It’s either that, or we should start talking about kitchen accidents as “kitchen violence.” Does that honestly sound right to you?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Potentially. Cutting your thumb, probably not. Cutting your thumb off? Maybe.

                And in any case, any and every firearm discharge is a physically violent event.

                The point is that it’s not open-and-shut enough to say definitively that Blaise moved *his own* goalposts (which is what he’s been accused of). (Obviously, you can say “That’s not now I’m using the term,” but that’s irrelevant to James’ claim that Blaise started talking about one thing and switched to something else.) His initial use of the word and subsequent arguments suggest that this kind of understanding of “gun violence” could very much have been included for him when he questioned whether gun violence has declined.

                If we’re talking about guns in America, which we are – and you’ve freely chosen to make an entry in that discussion on precisely those terms as set by Tod – and we’re not necessarily just talking about events like Newtown or even criminal violence (But really, in any case, regardless of what we’re ostensibly talking about!) as James very aptly says, why wouldn’t we care about accidental gun injuries as well as criminal injuries? We do!Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                IOW, it’s arguably you (and those who choose a similar focus to yours) who, by agreeing to participate in a forum with the topic of Guns in America and then instead choosing to change the subject to the overall decline in violent crime, have arguably moved the goalposts.

                Not that I object. I welcome it, as it adds valuable context and clarity to the discussion.

                But when James, after having been so vocal that initial topic statements don’t really matter in these fora, then starts talking about goalpost-moving in the course of said discussions as if it matters at all, it doesn’t really move me much. So what if Blaise did do that? And he really didn’t do it all that incontrovertibly, in any case.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Getting accidentally shot by a gun is not violent?

                Fine, we’ll conflate accidents with intentional actions. When a hunter accidentally shoots himself, we’ll just put that in the same category as the guy that stalks and shoots his ex-girlfriend. Who could possibly argue with that?

                Mike, Blaise, please consult a dictionary. The words “purpose” and “intent” appear over and over in the definitions of violence, but are noticeably absent in the definitions of accident.

                There’s a particular irony in Blaise accusing me of playing Humpty Dumpty when I’m working off of standard dictionary definitions while he conflates two words the dictionary defines in mutually exclusive ways. Maybe a bit of projection?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                If we’re talking about guns in America, which we are – and you’ve freely chosen to make an entry in that discussion on precisely those terms as set by Tod – and we’re not necessarily just talking about events like Newtown or even criminal violence (But really, in any case, regardless of what we’re ostensibly talking about!) as James very aptly says, why wouldn’t we care about accidental gun injuries as well as criminal injuries? We do!

                So you’re saying that by participating in this symposium, I am required — not just asked, but required by its very terms — to treat accidents as if they were the same thing as criminal violence?

                What a weird constraint to have to work under. If that’s the case, perhaps Tod could confirm it. And if he does, I’ll withdraw from the symposium.

                I think it’s plenty clear what just happened in this thread. I wrote about criminal violence here, not about accidents. I deliberately avoided any data about accidents — at all.

                Then Blaise came along, expecting to refute me, and he goofed. He saw what he wanted to see, and he posted it before realizing that his numbers included accidents along with violence.

                What followed was simply an unwillingness on his part to admit that he’d erred. And on your part, an incredibly strong desire to prove somehow that I’m wrong here, even if it comes at the expense of the plain meanings of words in the English language.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                We don’t need to do that, James. We can just not be so legalistic in our interactions with each other. I’m not making any claim that the way you use “violence” generally shouldn’t be restricted the way you describe it in general use. But in a particular instance if someone uses “violence” and then says they meant to include accidents in that particular use of the term, I believe I’ve shown there’s enough ambiguity in the term that it is reasonable to allow that the term was meant that way in that instance and move on.

                The point is that if he says he meant to include accidents in his initial use of the term, and that is a reasonable understanding of the term even if not your preferred one, then when he later includes accidents in his analysis of gun violence, it isn’t in that instance moving the goalposts. I’m not arguing that violence here shouldn’t generally be understood to mean an intentional act of aggression and force by one person against another, only that it’s not completely unambiguous that it means that, and if someone initially uses it differently and then continues along those lines, it’s not moving the goalposts.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                No, that’s not what I’m saying, Jason, nor is it what I said.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jesus, Michael, you’ve still got that bug up your ass? It seemed petty and obsessive back during the inequality symposium, and continuing to harp on it just makes it seem all the more petty and obsessive.

                It’s the symposium hosts game. They created it and wrote the rules. To tell them their rules are wrong makes no sense. If your point is that different rules would make for a better game, that’s a fair argument, but you really give the impression that you’re claiming their rules are not really legitimate.

                And saying “Our symposium is about X, but you can run with any tangent of X that interest you” is not at all the same thing as conflating two terms that actually have discrete meanings.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Your coment at 7:46 is answered by Jason’s comment at 7:41, particularly his last two paragraphs.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                They’re not the same thing and I didn’t say they are. I’m just saying that the two attitudes side-by-side in you – and not about conflating terms, which is not the issue you raised with Blaise, but rather of actual substantive goalpost moving, and those are different – don’t contribute to my caring much about your concern about the more recent one. Because I think they are related.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                You are right that BP may not have moved the goalposts. When I wrote that I didn’t realize he was, so it now seems, conflating two analytically distinct categories. Those are the options, screwup A or screwup B. You seem to be arguing that B isn’t a screwup, but of course it is, which is precisely the point behind Jason’s “kitchen violence” line.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                This symposium / flamefest / general dragging down of League — is entitled Symposium on Guns in America. This would include anything gun-related, including what I’ve brought in on this thread.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                So Jason’s unverifiable claim that Blaise didn’t actually know what stat he was posting successfully answers my assertion that if he did know and was making the point that it’s not so clear that gun violence is in decline if you consider any gun discharge, and certainly any one that causes bullet to enter a human body to be a violent event from a certain (arguably reasonable) perspective, even if it’s not the FBI’s, Jason Kucznicki, or James Hanley’s, then he wasn’t in fact moving the goalposts but rather making that point?

                I would consider that A Strange Definition of Success…Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Bye. Go Packers.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                So Jason’s unverifiable claim that Blaise didn’t actually know what stat he was posting successfully answers my assertion that if he did know and was making the point that it’s not so clear that gun violence is in decline if you consider any gun discharge, and certainly any one that causes bullet to enter a human body to be a violent event from a certain (arguably reasonable) perspective, even if it’s not the FBI’s, Jason Kucznicki, or James Hanley’s, then he wasn’t in fact moving the goalposts but rather making that point?

                No. Just no. In the very first sentence of this post, I used the phrase “violent crime.” I repeated that phrase throughout the entire post, again and again, sometimes just referring to it as “violence,” but never once citing any statistics about accidents.

                I was writing about violent crime. It’s obvious that that’s what I was writing about — not to the prejudice of accidents, mind you, I’m not saying they’re unimportant — but it does seem obvious that they have different causes and are essentially different phenomena.

                I’d welcome a post on gun accidents, and on gun safety, but this post wasn’t it.

                And if it turns out that Tod thinks this post is off-topic, because it’s about violent crime and only tangentially about guns, then I will happily withdraw it. As I said.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                This symposium / flamefest / general dragging down of League — is entitled Symposium on Guns in America. This would include anything gun-related, including what I’ve brought in on this thread.

                Of course. But then it behooves you to fault me for failing to talk about hunting, too.

                I suppose.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Sorry, guys, but I’m far from being persuaded that you’ve made any kind of case for conflating the categories of gun violence and gun accidents. Blaise wants to obscure the fact that violent gun crime has diminished by lumping it in with gun accidents. It’s a ham fisted attempt at misdirection. We can be legitimately concerned about the frequency of gun accidents, but that doesn’t mean any particular author has to write about that instead of fun crime, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean the claim that “violent crime in America…has been in a sweet, blissful, wonderful decline” is in any way wrong.

                Trying to argue against that by pointing to a presumably unchanged accident rate is just to wholly miss the point Jason was making. And trying to obscure the reality of declining gun crime…well, where’s the intellectual gain in that?

                Asserting that we can in fact call an accidental gunshot wound a violent thing is at best trivially true–but it doesn’t advance any meaningful response to the claim about declining rates of violent gun crime, so it’s really a case of getting stuck on pointless trivialities.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Some categories are clear. Hunting accidents aren’t the same thing as rampages, for example. And being shot while ostensibly cleaning a gun isn’t the same thing as being shot because you’re somebody’s lover.

                Weekly cop shows confirm this.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I’m waiting for the werewolf symposium.
                I have some very strong opinions on werewolves, which I believe I will be able to substantially support with empirical evidence.

                In the meantime, I will begin work on my great werewolf tale, which I call (working title) “The Yowling.”
                I was considering doing this as a comic in hieroglyphic style, but decided that was best reserved for westerns.
                The lead werewolf in The Yowling is remarkably similar to Woody Allen’s “Virgil Starkwell” character in Take the Money and Run— who was a violent criminal, btw, who was notorious for gun crimes– but resemble more the Unabomber physically, but with a build like Brock Lesnar, but with better fashion sense than either.

                The lack of meaningful werewolf statistics from the FBI suggests some kind of cover-up.
                And of course, the liberal media (being pro-werewolf) always want to bury those types of stories.

                My werewolf– the lead werewolf in The Yowling— is more socially conscious than what you would normally think of werewolves of the the past as being. These werewolves refuse to prey on diaspora populations, and they also recycle frequently.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m waiting for the werewolf symposium

                And I’ll be waiting for Michael Drew to object when someone branches out to write a post about were rabbits.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                “In the same category” != “the same thing.”

                Certainly a hunting accident and a murder are both “shootings,” I would think. They are certainly, 100% incontrovertibly, not both “violent crime.” You can rant and scream all you want but nothing anyone can do can make it 100% incontrovertible that they aren’t both “gun violence.”

                It remains the case that if Blaise’s initial point was that from a perspective that’s at least reasonable to consider, perhaps they are both “gun violence,” then that was indeed his initial point. Which would mean that later saying that, according to that view of gun violence, accidents should be lumped in with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as “gun violence” (which DNE saying they are the same thing… there are other categories that can distinguish them) would not amount to moving the goalposts.

                And that was the only point I was ever trying to make.Report

              • Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

                I hate to drag out this sub-thread, but it might be helpful to contemplate problems of encoding in the available public statistics. For instance, a person could accidentally shoot his friend while hunting or just goofing around, and because some prosecutor decides to make an example of him, he is then prosecuted for negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter, etc.

                Would that then be encoded in the statistics as an “accident” or a “violent crime”? And keep in mind the trends on such a thing could go either way over time and be inconsistent (likely are!) across jurisdictions.

                So, I don’t know if this is the case or not, but it seems possible that a situation could arise where there is an apparent increase or decrease in “violent” gun incidents that’s really just an artifact of prosecutorial discretion or data encoding.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Rod, that’s an excellent point.

                It’s something we learned in The Wire.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’ve mentioned in here and there… our gun statistics (our crime statistics, generally) are *really bad*.

                I give the UCR props for the work that they do, but they obscure a lot of information.

                For example, if I rob a bank and a guard shoots at me and kills a bystander, I get the murder conviction. That shows up as a gun homicide.

                Right properly, it should be encoded in crime statistics as something else, as neither I nor the guard intended to kill the victim, and presumably a study of crime statistics would want to treat that category differently from me stalking and killing somebody.

                This isn’t really the FBI’s fault; they keep records of legal outcomes and reports, they’re not data monkeys.Report

              • Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

                If, actually I presume when, Tod puts up my contribution to this gabfest, you’ll see what I mean. Let’s just say I was very nearly one of those statistics but what manner of statistic is hard to say.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                As Rod pointed out, though, the rates of these misclassifications would have to be changing systematically (and, I’d argue, somewhat significantly) in order to have much effect on the evaluations we’ve been doing here, as we’ve been doing them.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                @Michael Drew,
                It remains the case that if Blaise’s initial point was that from a perspective that’s at least reasonable to consider, perhaps they are both “gun violence,” then that was indeed his initial point.

                That was not his initial point. His initial point was that Jason was wrong. As I noted above, that point would be entirely reasonable–had BP said, “yes, violent gun crime is declining, but unfortunately that other category of gun injuries and deaths that are labeled gun accidents aren’t,” he would have been just fine. But he tried to claim that Jason was wrong about his claim that violent gun crimes were decreasing by eliding crimes and shifting to simply “violence.”

                That shift then allows him and you to try to bundle accidents into the the category, even though Jason was explicitly talking about something else, and just obfuscate and confuse the whole issue. It’s very bad form on his part and yours.

                And even if we bring in gun accidents and stick everything into your overly broad and analytically weaker category of “violence,” Blaise is still wrong, because if intentional gun violence has declined, while accidental gun violence (or, as I would prefer “violence”) has remained steady, then the overall frequency of gun violence has to have declined. That’s simple math.

                You guys are eliding distinctions that Jason was trying to keep clear and in consequence making the issue much muddier, much less analytically tractable.

                Think of it this way. If we don’t make the distinction between intentional gun violence and accidental gun “violence,” then if gun injuries/deaths overall increase, we’ll not know what element of it to focus on in order to respond effectively. We might say, “require safeties on all guns,” but if the problem is actually an increase in intentional shootings, we won’t have affected the problem at all. So it’s important to keep the categories distinct. So if you or Blaise want to talk about that other category, fine, but take care to keep it distinct instead of conflating it with the other category unless you’re content with making the issue less comprehensible.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                “The idea that gun violence is declining is a bit simplistic. ”

                That’s what he said. There’s no flat claim that Jason is specifically wrong in anything he wrote there.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                But for the record, I’m not arguing to regard all gun injuries the same and not make the distinctions you want to make. It’s important to make those distinctions. I just think it’s also okay to separately take note of the total number of gun injuries of all kinds and consider them in light of the number of guns (or other trends). You can look at data different ways and then go back to looking at them the other ways without having given anything up; there’s no commitment required.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                “The idea that gun violence is declining is a bit simplistic. ”

                That’s what he said. There’s no flat claim that Jason is specifically wrong in anything he wrote there.

                Oi. Jason was writing about violent gun crimes. So either Blaise was saying the claim of a decline in violent gun crime is “a bit simplistic” (in which case he was dead flat wrong), or he’s referring to something Jason wasn’t actually talking about–and doing so in a way that sounded like he was critiquing Jason– but without bothering to make it clear that he was referring to something different. It was only after the fact that all this justification of what he might have meant by “violence” was bandied about–post-hoc justification at its best.

                Come one, Michael, you’re working overtime to defend something that was a mistake in either one way or another.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                referring to something Jason wasn’t actually talking about–and doing so in a way that sounded like he was critiquing Jason–

                This is what he was doing. But the words themselves make clear that what he was referring to was not violent crime. And the symposium is about guns, not crime. He doesn’t have any obligation to keep the conversation exactly where Jason moved it to, and he didn’t claim that Jason said that gun violence (including accidents) overall is in decline. He said the idea was simplistic. It’s fair to say that’s a straw man of Jason’s position, except he didn’t say Jason articulated it. He was expanding the point to say that an idea that might be suggested by Jason’s argument to someone not paying close attention (that all gun violence, if you would consider gun accidents violence) is not entirely right – that by that definition, including accidents, gun violence is not in decline.

                It’s been clear for a long that that’s what he was saying. It’s you who’s seems particularly invested in showing that Blaise made a narrow mistake irrespective of whether the substantive issues had been pretty well clarified, and indeed their significance acknowledged (we all agreed early on that we do care about gun accidents as well as crime, so it’s not as if you’re saying it’s specious of Blaise to have brought them up at all).Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                This is what he was doing. But the words themselves make clear that what he was referring to was not violent crime. And the symposium is about guns, not crime.

                I will repeat my offer to withdraw this post from the symposium, because it is about crime, not about guns, not about accidents, not about hunting, and not about any other aspects of things that occasionally go boom.

                Analytically, my point still stands. Violent crime is declining. Accidents are more common than violent crime, and they are keeping pace with the population, more or less. It’s still — at best — irrelevant and off the topic of the post.

                To believe otherwise is to believe that I am, or was, proposing environmental lead as the source of gun accidents.

                If that’s what you believe I intended, Michael, by all means assert it. Otherwise, this thread is over. You and Blaise both very clearly used the wrong dataset, then clumsily tried to insist that it refuted me anyway.

                It does matter, but it doesn’t refute me.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                And the symposium is about guns, not crime.

                Jesus Christ. Jason’s response is far more polite than you deserve at this point.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                My point is not that you shouldn’t say what you want in the forum, Jason. At all. You should, and I want you to, and I have no problem with you having written what you wrote, and I’ve said so. My point is that because of the topic of the Symposium, it’s thereafter just especially okay for Blaise to redirect the conversation back to the topic of the Symposium, notwithstanding that your post/point was on a slightly different topic, because of your post’s being an elective entrant into a forum with topic as stated.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Also: how did I use Blaise’s dataset?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                James, I certainly appreciate and thank both you and Jason for maintaining civility at all times, to whatever extent that required/s any extraordinary on either of your parts.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I certainly have never claimed that Blaise in any way refuted you, Jason (My only claim was that he did not move the goalposts on a claim he made after initially stating it.), and I think you won’t find in this thread where Blaise claimed to have done it, either.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Michael Drew,

                How is gun violence not a legitimate post topic for a gun symposium? And how is talking about gun accidents “redirecting” it back to the topic when gun accidents is just as much a sub-topic of “guns” as gun violence is?

                Every turn you take in this ill-fated attempt to rescue Blaise’s initial error just leads you into more unsupportable arguments.

                And as to the topic of the symposium, will you please quit focusing just on the word for the topic and pay some attention to what the symposium’s hosts agree is a legitimate interpretation of it? You’ve been banging this drum from the very first symposium, and not one goddam person is marching to your tune as far as I can tell–certainly not the folks who are organizing the damn thing and deciding what is an appropriate post or not. So who the fish are you to keep implying that their interpreting their own intent the wrong way? Just get the fuck over yourself already.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:


                Because your first question turns completely backwards what I have now repeatedly said with respect to whether I think the post Jason wrote is appropriate, legitimate, and welcome to the Symposium (I think it is all of those), I am going to decline to answer the rest of your questions due to the bad faith I think the foregoing shows on your part, and say that my participation in what I admit is now an overlong and not especially fruitful conversation is now over.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise to redirect the conversation back to the topic of the Symposium

                Your own damn words, Drew. “redirect…back to the topic…” So Jason’s post about gun crime was not on topic, but gun violence dubiously interpreted to include accidents is.

                Your. own. damn. word. If it’s not what you meant, then just say so. But I don’t see the bad faith in relying on the plain meaning of the words you write.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                “not a legitimate post topic”

                Your words. What you’re saying I said about Jason’s post. I did not, and repeatedly have said the opposite. I perhaps suggested a post on the general decline of violent crime is not strictly on topic in a Symposium about guns. More specifically, I said that a redirection back to the general effects of guns from a post on the former topic in a Symposium about guns is also very appropriate. But the topic of this post is an entirely appropriate, constructive, welcome, and certainly legitimate topic to bring into a Symposium with the topic this one has nevertheless. And I’d said so more than once before the point where you said I’ve said the opposite.

                Do I need to say it any more? Jason’s topic is appropriate, legitimate, and welcome in the context of this Symposium.

                More still?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                So this post was legitimate, but still off-topic and it was great that someone redirected it back to the real topic just as quickly as possible instead of dealing with it in its own terns. Mighty white of you, as we used to say.

                But your continued insistence that this is what BP was doing, instead of trying to correct Jason and making a bloody balls of it is really the heart of the matter. Your contortions to that effect are not exactly among your better contributions here. The dude, in his eternal hubris, fucked up. All of your argument to the contrary is incredibly weak sauce. Just post hoc rationalization that only serve to reinforce the sense that despite your allowance that Jason’s post is here legitimately, you still seem to want to deny the opportunity to actually focus and have a discussion about the point of his post, which is that violent gun crime has dckined dramatically.

                To that end, I think your own efforts have really been in bad faith. It all really comes across as, “well, I guess this post is legitimate, but it’s really off-topic, so let’s shift the discussion away from the author’s point and not really talk about it.”

                That’s asshole behavior in my book. And since I thought Jason’s point was both important and wholly on-topic, that type of asshole behavior really pissed me off. It’s not even the natural drift away from the post topic, which itself can be so frustrating to an author, but a deliberate attempt to push the focus away from the author’s point. Whatever you may say about thinking Jason’s post being legitimate, all the talk about redirecting back to the topic, and the real issue being something else, all that has a strong subtext of delegitimization. And it really sucks for an author when someone does that.

                And I see you as someone who’s doing that over and over in these symposia because you have some idiosyncratic notion of how they ought to be constrained, and you’re clueless about how frustrating that can be for an author,

                Put your own ass out there on the line with a post, and let others delegitimization you. You’ll find that so far you’ve been doing the cheapest and easiest thing possible.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                You’re entitled to all those opinion, James. Good night.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                The only thing I’d want to correct is that I don’t think and haven’t said the post is “really off-topic.” It’s strictly speaking (meaning, in a technical, but not very important sense) off the narrow topic of guns per se (indeed, that’s rather part of the very point of the post!), but it’s highly associated and very pertinent nonetheless. As I’ve said.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                “the narrow topic of guns per se”

                “Guns” is a narrow topic? Seriously?

                Your whole set of errors in this thread may stem from that strange misconception. It seems rather obvious that the symposium hosts chose “guns” as the topic rather than “gun violence,” “gun control” or the like precisely because “guns” is in fact much broader and incorporates all those other topics.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The interesting thing about this entire kerfuffle, the Apple of Discord, is a point Mike Dwyer and I have consistently agreed upon: that gun safety is one area where we cannot legislate improvements. This problem, a very significant part of the debate, is one which goes straight to the heart of the Sandy Hook massacre. Weapons and ammunition must be effectively secured. I cannot oblige Dwyer to secure his weapons and ammunition (I’m more concerned about the ammunition) or check his safety, nor do I even need to hector him on this subject. He knows the Four Rules and I know he does. Many, (dare I say most?) gun owners are not as cognizant of gun safety and it is these people (and the people they shoot) who turn up on my side of the statistics.

                People do survive gunshot trauma with increasing success, on that we can all agree. I used to joke, while I lived in Chicago: if I was ever shot, I’d want to be transported to Cook County Hospital: their gunshot trauma teams are the best, since they see so much of it.

                What I cannot abide is the pissybaby whining about how I’m leading this discussion awry. Gun violence incorporates more than crimes committed with guns. Gun owners who fail to live by the Four Rules endanger themselves and others. All these blithe and patently disingenuous statements about how we’ve attenuated gun violence are just kicking up dust, sprinkling sparkly foo-foo powder. They don’t fool anyone who’s serious about gun safety.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Actually, I had a (public) conversation with Tod about the topic statement as soon as it was posted. No, it’s not a particularly narrow topic. I suggested that perhaps a topic like “Guns and Mental Health” might get more to the issues the tragedy raised (in my mind). He said he preferred to specifically push the conversation about guns simpliciter to the fore, because he thought that was the one people would be most eager to slide past in favor of questions like the one I suggested. In retrospect, I agree with his instinct enthusiastically.

                By “narrow topic of guns” there, I just meant “the topic of guns strictly speaking.” Gun violence falls under that umbrella, but, strictly speaking, the general decline in violent crime does not (not that it’s not interestingly related or shouldn’t be discussed in the same conversation). And, as I’ve said, that’s actually part of the substantive point of Jason’s post – that irrespective of trends in gun ownership or proliferation, the Great Fact about violent crime (and thus violent crime involving guns) is that it is in secular decline, and that that is indeed not related to trends in gun ownership or gun availability. That, yes, they are (largely) separate. (That’s the point of the post).

                If I might, James, I’d like to suggest that at this point you’re starting to reach a bit for things to quibble over. The thing you reached for there was within the context simply of me reiterating where I stand wrt the appropriateness of Jason’s entry into the Symposium. You seriously don’t prefer to just be done yet?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Gun violence incorporates more than crimes committed with guns. Gun owners who fail to live by the Four Rules endanger themselves and others. All these blithe and patently disingenuous statements about how we’ve attenuated gun violence are just kicking up dust, sprinkling sparkly foo-foo powder. They don’t fool anyone who’s serious about gun safety.

                Blaise, if I were to write a post that treated accidents and deliberate shootings as part of the same category, I would have to confine myself to a very small subset of topics — basically, I’d have to write a post about trauma surgery and very little else.

                What separates accidents and deliberate crime? Absolutely everything else about them. Motives, mental states, ethical considerations, all other aspects of causality are completely different. As are the ways our society treats the individuals after the fact — a negligent killing is a different thing from a deliberate one. The law treats them differently, and we all very properly regard the deliberate killer as a different species from the man who accidentally shoots himself while cleaning his gun.

                It is a poor thing to fault someone for failing to write the post that you wish he had written. But if you really did want me to write a post that treated all gunshot wounds as the same, what exactly would be the payoff? Why would that be worthwhile, as opposed to a consideration of either one separately? After all, we can’t really talk sensibly about reducing either crimes or accidents if we pretend that they must always be addressed as if they were the same thing.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Re: Your second paragraph.

                The fact that violent crime has fallen overall, specifically including the point that violent gun crime has fallen, is a pretty damned important issue if we’re going to talk about guns. The discussion of guns would be so radically incomplete without it that a post emphasizing the decline in gun violence is, to my mind, necessary. Noting that this is occurring as part of a general trend of declining violent crime is just putting the specific decline in violent gun crimes in context, not writing a post that’s not really about guns.

                I’m with Jason here. It just really seems he didn’t write the post that either you or Blaise wanted to see written. I’m not going to go back and re-read, but to the best of my memory, neither of you, in all this, has actually made a fair and meaningful comment about Jason’s actual point. You’ve just been harping on something that wasn’t what he was talking about.

                I know I’ve been an ass throughout this, but the difference between us seems to be that I recognize I was being an ass while you don’t recognize in what way you were being an ass.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Jason, you have already confined yourself to repeating tidy and patently disingenuous meme, that gun violence is going down. It isn’t. From my perspective, it does come down to trauma surgery. Unless the shooter is extraordinarily lucky, gunshot victims don’t die immediately. Takes a long time for a gunshot victim to die. They die of shock, of blood loss, of a dozen separate causes.

                Really, all this crap about accidents is a distinction without difference and you goddamn well know it. The bullet is completely democratic. It doesn’t care where it impacts. Any other conclusion is just so much goddamn Happy Talk.

                And do quit whining. I said felony murder was only the tip of the iceberg. As the crack epidemic winds down and increasing numbers of shooters are imprisoned, yes, felony murder is going down. Murderers are being taken off the street. Why, then, haven’t gun trauma incidents declined?

                I have a theory. The USA is engaged in a civilian arms race. As we grow more fearful, more people purchase weapons, as the AR-15 craze of recent weeks reveals. With more weapons come more incidents.

                As with nuclear weapons disarmament rhetoric, as the numbers of weapons rise, so does the probability of deadly mistakes. We see the wisdom of nuclear disarmament yet cannot apply these lessons elsewhere. We have increased the safety of vehicles to the point where fewer people die in accidents but cannot improve gun safety. If we had any other product on the market with this level of lethality, we’d regulate it. We don’t, because unlike anything else in the Constitution, this particular tool is specifically exempted.

                You can call them “accidents” but the bullet doesn’t care. The trauma surgeon doesn’t care, either. Every attempt to distinguish between this bullet and that one is complete nonsense.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Eh. I’m not really concerned about being an ass in the way you feel I have been (obviously, otherwise I’d endeavor to change it. I’d try to explain it but I don’t really fully understand what you are saying it is, and well, no I don’t really care to do that either. Maybe some day. Suffice to say, I think the topic-of-Symposia thing matters a bit, though not as much as I think you think I do. But I do see it come up in the Symposia, and that draws me out on it, especially now that you’ve gone to such lengths to say how wrong I am to think it. Of course, I don’t really know how much of my assdom hinges on all that, rather than on some mre general tendency that doesn’t agree with you. You can tell me but I’m not gonna lie and say I’m all that interested to hear.)

                For my part, I’m more concerned about not being an ass in the way you were eventually an ass, after an admirable effort to restrain yourself. But I’m totally okay that you were eventually an ass in the way that you tend to be. I like you and I’m okay with they way you do ass-being. It’s you, and, as I said, I like you. More than that, I respect you immensely and I look up to you (I was a poli sci major and that’s as far as I got, so in terms of academics and perhaps the rules/practice of adversarial intellectual discourse, you probably simply have my ass. What choice do I have?) But I’m not trying to please you. If you’re looking for that, stop it. I’m sorry you dislike so much the way in which you think I’m as ass. I really am. But I’m not going to consciously do much to change it unless/until it suits me, and it doesn’t at this time. Maybe you can get me to feel that doing that would suit me at some point, but I can tell you that so far you’re not on the right track, at least not that I’m aware of;).

                Cheers, Hanley. I propose we stop caring so much that/when either of us act like asses. I promise I’m already on my way to following through on that.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …But yes, we should totally be talking about the decline in violent crime and the associated decline in violent crime involving guns in the course of this conversation. It’s just also okay to then note that for all that, gun injuries of all kinds in the population aren’t going down. We can then say that the latter fact may actually be more properly related to the topic of the symposium – guns – than the former is, which is not to say that the former is not related to it, and which is not to say that the number of guns in the country controls the overall number of gun injuries. But it’s not to say it doesn’t. I really don’t know the data very well, so that’s where my positive comment to Jason’s post has to stop, with personal idle speculation of that kind. But that’s what it would be.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Really, all this crap about accidents is a distinction without difference and you goddamn well know it.

                So the person who accidentally shoots someone should be treated in the law exactly as if he were a murderer?

                If the accident/crime distinction really is a distinction without a difference, you are obliged to say yes.

                If you say no, then the distinction does have a difference.

                Take you pick. Begin with a simple yes or no. Justify your answer. We can go from there.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I posted the DOJ link above, but I’ll post it again. Here. It shows non-fatal firearm crime rates have diminished. That strongly suggests that “gun trauma incidents” have decline…unless the rate of accidental gun traumas has dramatically increased.

                Your link shows no decline since 200a–a very short time frame, whereas the DOJ chart begins in ’93 (still shorter time frame than I’d like, but longer than yours). And if you’ll look at the DOJ chart you’ll see the big drop occurs between ’93 and about ’01/’02. So the table you linked to misses the dramatic decline in those years (from about 6 non-fatal firearm related crimes per 1,000 persons to about 2 or less).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I still like you, too. But your tendency to imply that people are writing the wrong post is a habit you should reconsider. And whether you think that’s what you and/or Blaise were doing or not, it obviously seemed that way to Jason, and it sure came across that way to me. It’s pretty damned pretentious and rude, especially coming from someone who’s not contributed his own post (and since you’re obviously capable of doing so, I wish you would).Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                So the result of all this is that it would be interesting (and therefore legitimate) to see the data series that Blaise presented extended back further in time. I’m down with that. Clearly, if all gun injuries in the population were in decline, that would be significant to the discussion as it has transpired. OTOH, overall gun injury rates being level or on the rise since 2001 is not not data.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                James, I’ll consider it. I like data-rich substance. But it’s hard work, and others do it well. I’m lazy, and there ’tis. When I spend a lot of time commenting, it’s because I’ve been drawn in, if not against my will, then at least with no plan to be. And in any case I’m not sure my unschooled attempts at the kind of post I’d like to contribute would be that valuable, honestly. All that, plus: I’m almost always genuinely unsure what I think.

                I’ll consider your suggestion, but I’ll also insist I didn’t imply that, and was at pains to say I didn’t think Jason wrote the wrong post. I’d ask you to consider reading with more charity as to intent and a slightly less sensitive trigger for pulling out the rhetorical foul-call whistle. And just for generally less telling people what you think of them as people/contributors here. You were away for a while and I missed you, but when you returned, if we didn’t know you I think the impression you’d make was that you are unaccountably interested in making things too quickly about what we the people of the League are doing wrong and not letting it continue to be about the ideas even long after people have started to annoy you. No one has the obligation not to annoy you, and no one has the obligation to address or help you deal with your personal annoyance with them. This place isn’t about that.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m not sure my unschooled attempts at the kind of post I’d like to contribute would be that valuable, honestly. All that, plus: I’m almost always genuinely unsure what I think.

                Truthfully, those are irrelevant considerations. The first is, with certainty, wrong. Almost every person encouraged to guest post says that, and their results invariably prove they were too modest by half. The second isn’t remotely problematic–there’s a long tradition, especially here at the League, of posting about things one is unsure about, but wants to explore. Laziness? Well, I get that and would be a hypocrite to condemn it.

                As to the rest, I stand by my my claims. It’s a bit precious to say you weren’t making any implications about the choice of topic when you tried to shift it yourself (away from crime to violence, broadly (and dubiously) defined), and defended BP’s comment as just redirecting “back to the topic of the symposium” (which unavoidably implies that Jason’s post wasn’t actually on the topic of the symposium, else there would be no “back to”). I’m glad you explicitly say you didn’t mean that, but I do wish you’d consider what those other comments strongly imply, and understand why it’s hard to read them any differently.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @James: stop wriggling. I have already stipulated to a decrease in criminal gun crime. Why then haven’t shootings decreased? I say crime decreases as varies convictions. That being the case (and nobody argues this point) we might lower the all-inclusive stats by similar regulatory means.

                You want to pretend these incidents aren’t happening? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Or on the gurney. Go on with this Pollyanna bullshit. Ten years of data isn’t enough eh? Po-thetic. As usual if it doesn’t fit your worldview we can discard the evidence.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                You’re going to need more than a link that shows only a decade–a post-decline decade at that–and lots of huffing and puffing to persuade me that you’re on to anything important here.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. Asshole behaviour is presenting inconvenient data. Bluffing and posturing won’t save your argument. I lack the requisite skills to convince you; data doesn’t suffice. Time to call the Jackass Whisperer.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Your data’s not inconvenient, it’s just not particularly relevant because it’s limited to the post-decline era, when gun shootings stabilized at a lower level than they were previously. Choosing a post-decline data set to argue that there’s no decline is inconvenient only for your argument. You might as well post a chart of my height growth over the past 25 years and use it to argue that I’ve never grown. It’s accurate data for the time period it covers, but a more long-term data set that includes evidence for the questioned event is obviously better. If you find a chart that shows there’s been no overall decline over a longer period than my DOJ chart covered, then obviously that becomes the better data set. Those are real simple and invariable rules, not bent to suit either your argumentative needs nor mine.

                As for the personal insults, what do you gain by them? They don’t strengthen your argument, they don’t intimidate me, and based on personal experience I’m willing to bet you don’t get any real satisfaction out of using them. Aren’t you and I beyond that, now?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Well, James, it certainly is fair to say that I said declining violent crime isn’t strictly on the topic of guns. Everyone’s just going to have to deal with my having said that, because I did – I didn’t just imply it: I said it. What I didn’t say and didn’t imply and what you said I said that I denied having said or implied is that it’s not a topic that’s legitimate or appropriate to have been brought into the symposium. I never said it wasn’t, and it’s just your insistence alone that says I implied it. I did not, and the minute it was suggested I did, I denied it.

                So consider your request that I consider what you say my comments must strongly have implied considered. I deny that they strongly imply what you’ve previously said they do. (Just now, though, you’ve corrected what you’re saying they mean back to just what they say, i.e. saying I’m saying it’s not [strictly speaking] on the topic – which is improved from your previous charge that I said it was an illegitimate topic to bring into the discussion – so I do appreciate that improvement.)

                You have a beef with me about this issue of the topic statements of these symposia, and that’s leading you to have a preconception about what I’m saying any time the issue of the topics comes up, and that’s caused you decide that my comments must mean certain things that they don’t say and don’t imply. That’s what’s going on here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Grand old acronym.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I miss him.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        “The idea that gun violence is declining is a bit simplistic. ”

        That’s what he said. There’s no flat claim that Jason is specifically wrong in anything he wrote there.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Great piece Jason.Report

  6. Avatar Peter M. says:

    What about increasing incarceration rates during the period? (A trend I personally abhor.) I’ve read that it has some impact on violent crime reduction — in the range of 10 to 15%, as I recall.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Yeah, this was something Jason very much should have addressed in this post, which I otherwise like.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        You’re right, although I did go on for an awfully long time as it was.

        The fact that more men are raped in prison than women are raped in the rest of the country says all that we need to know about whether or not it’s a good idea to incarcerate so many.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Well, I agree that incarcerating so many is a bad idea.

          But the rising size of the incarcerated population (along with the violence they do to each other) is kind of a likely contributing cause of a decreased amount of violent crime among the populace.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            For what it’s worth, I’m pretty much okay, kinda, with the idea of removing the most violent folks from society. Serial abusers (of any stripe), rapists, gangsters… that sort of thing. Heck, we can even have conversations about con artists, Ken Lay types, and so on.

            What percentage of the rising size of the incarcerated population are in there for reasons related to violence?Report

            • Avatar mark boggs says:

              And how many that are in there for non-violent reasons (re: drugs) might be prone to more violence when they leave, especially the younger ones?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                This is my guess too: that the incarceration worsens some number of initially non-violent criminals…they were just drug users when they went in, but inside they got hardened, and learned add’l criminal “skills”, which they’ll need on the outside; because it’s not like they will have much in the way of legitimate employment opportunities when they get out anyway, so might as well learn to carjack or whatever.

                More specifically to your point, I have long been a proponent of, “if they are in for drug crimes only, let ’em out” – but some number of them certainly by now have “graduated” to worse behaviors, due to the appalling environment of prison, and we should expect some problems from them.

                Gah. The WoD is just the biggest waste, with compounding interest no less, that this country ever devised.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Remember china. And then remember why we have a War On Drugs.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      FWIW, Kevin Drum, who wrote the Mother Jones article that Jason links to, estimates that lead exposure might account for 50% of the decline in violent crime, with the rest being due to other factors which might well include increasing incarceration rates.Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I liked this piece overall, and *really* liked your taking a look at environmental theories about the decline in crime. But I confess I’m a little hung up on your last point, which I assume I’m probably misreading.

    Your final point seems by my reading to be, “So don’t be a X and say we should have a Big Discussion About This when tragedies occur” – which seems odd, in as much as the lead abatement issue probably never gets to you (or any of us) without a Big Discussion About This. (And that lead is, after all, just your favorite theory at this point, and not yet the proven or even the consensus culprit in crime statistics.)Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Lead is poisonous as hell, and the market wasn’t going to do anything about that. Banning its use was absolutely the right thing to do, ideology be damned.

    Global warming is real, and the market isn’t going to do anything about that.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      Just to say that it’s not really so much ‘banned’ as its uses are limited.
      Paint with red lead is still the standard for sea-going vessels.

      The American military is the largest user of dichlordiflouromethane in the world. They use it to clean parts with, because it’s fast-drying and leaves no residue.

      “Banned” often means something other than “no longer used.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Sure. As Jason points out, it’s banned where it’s most likely to enter human biochemistry.

        Paint with red lead is strongly resists saltwater-based corrosion, which is why it was the original paint used on the Golden Gate Bridge. (Saltwater fog affects every single surface.) It wasn’t good enough, though, so it was replaced first by vinyl-based and more recently bu acrylic-based paint.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Interesting about the Golden Gate.
          Wondering how that is cost-wise.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            I was told as a kid that they’re always painting the bridge (or they were, 30 years ago, the new paint may render it unnecessary). Start at one end, and by the time they get to the other it’s time to do it again.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              I was told the same. According to the piece where I got the information about the paint:

              Until 1965, only touch up was required. In 1965, advancing corrosion sparked a program to remove the original lead-based paint (which was 68% red lead paste in a linseed oil carrier). The removal continued to 1995. In 1965, the original paint was replaced with an inorganic zinc silicate primer and acrylic emulsion topcoat. In the 1980s, this paint system was replaced by a water-borne inorganic zinc primer and an acrylic topcoat. The Bridge will continue to require routine touch up painting on an on-going basis.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      True. Unfortunately it looks like governments aren’t going to do anything about it either.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko says:

        Other than what they already did, which probably had the salutary effect described in the original post. But yes, environmental regulations never have dramatic good effects.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      If you don’t want gas with lead in it then don’t buy it. But don’t force your choice on me.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        We could easily frame it in terms of externalities.

        If we did, then we would have to ask how those externalities might be contained.

        Is a market mechanism plausible? No.

        Is taxation likely to help? Not really, I don’t think, though we could argue it. I suppose.

        And, if we’ve left off those two, we have one option left, prohibition. The presence of fairly good substitutes means prohibition isn’t such a terrible thing. It does impose a cost, but the cost appears to be well-placed, so I’m not terribly concerned about it. Particularly when, weighed against the personal and property crime that would result otherwise, the cost is so small and so predictable.Report

  9. Avatar pete mack says:

    One thing I’ve wondered about this: can people in high-lead areas pursue a class action “takings” case against automobile companies, oil companies, and the government?

    These three groups were most responsible for wrecking both health and property value. (Ground co ntamination is an ongoing health issue.)
    Can they be forced to fund a cleanup?Report

  10. Avatar James K says:

    Excellent piece Jason.

    Have you read Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature? Could it just be that the drop in crime since the 1990s is just the historical trend reasserting itself? In which case it’s the rise in crime in the 1960s that really needs an explanation.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      The peak in gun violence during the late 80s and early 90s slacked off when the crackheads died or were murdered off.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      The usual explanation (that I’ve seen) is demographics: The Baby Boomers reached their late teens, and more young men means more crime.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        The Baby Boomers would have reached their late teens in the late 1960s to mid 1970s.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          I’d say starting in the mid-60s. (46 + 17 = 63), Anyway, doesn’t that match the rise James is asking about?Report

        • Avatar David Ryan says:

          The significant age isn’t teen, it’s 40, when testosterone levels start to fall. This is when career violent felons (usual) settle into low-level dealing or other low risk of violence criminal enterprises.Report

  11. Avatar pete mack says:

    Also: the rate of mass killings has gone up over the previous 30 years. The chart you referenced shows a linear fit of about 30% increase. In any case, as you point out, gun violence in the US continues to be significantly higher than in other countries, even countries with similar ownership rates. I don’t want to take away everyone’s guns, but following similar regulations as in, say, Israel surely makes sense.

    The earlier gunaholics post has a real purpose: big stockpiles of weapons, especially stockpiles accumulated rapidly, really do have a significant chance of being used.Report

  12. Avatar Tim Kowal says:

    Excellent piece, Jason. Both the argument and the meta argument. Best thing I’ve read in a good while.Report

  13. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    “But across a wide range of countries, guns per capita and firearm homicide rates very obviously don’t correlate too well.”

    Not at all true. In fact there is strong evidence, not just of correlation across regions and time (when controlling for other factors), but even that gun prevalence causes higher homicide rates of about 1 more homicide for every 10,000 gun owning homes per year. In the U.S. that amounts to, probably, 4000 people per year, hardly a “drop in the bucket.”

    I cited this:

    “In sum, gun prevalence is positively associated with overall homicide rates but not systematically related to assault or other types of crime. Together, these results suggest that an increase in gun prevalence causes an intensification of criminal violence—a shift toward greater lethality, and hence greater harm to the community.

    There is also this oft cited page:

    “The Great Fact means that we have apparently been doing something right. Something colossally right. And anything we do about guns will be a drop in the bucket by comparison.”

    No, we can lower the homicide rate (as is suggested above) and the suicide rate greatly (thousands of lives, more than 9/11 every year) by making the means for committing suicide and homicide harder to access.

    It is great to reduce people’s desire to commit homicide by making them less aggressive (by lowering lead levels) or by getting rid of the need for violence in the black market for drugs. (And we should reduce the desire to commit suicide by improving mental health spending and universal access to psychological care.) But at the same time as you are minimizing the desire to commit homicide (or suicide), you should also be working on limiting how many homicides (and suicides) are likely to be committed by reducing access to the means that make homicide and suicide easy. (And that means gun control.)

    In general, there seems to be an idea in this symposium that we have to figure out what the one problem of gun violence is and what the one best solution is. But this is a foolish way of looking at a problem. There are many different things we should be doing to limit all of the following: the desire to commit homicide and suicide amongst “regular folks,” the desire to commit homicide by gang members and criminals, the insane desire to kill in a mass shooting, the desire to commit terrorist acts, AND the easy access to weapons that makes all of these horrible acts easier and more likely to kill more people.

    This isn’t an either/or, it is a both/and.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


      Jason said:

      “But across a wide range of countries, guns per capita and firearm homicide rates very obviously don’t correlate too well.”

      You replied:

      Not at all true. In fact there is strong evidence, not just of correlation across regions and time (when controlling for other factors)

      Your paper is a study on counties in the U.S., not countries in the world. In fact, your study doesn’t refute Jason’s specific claim at all.

      I’m going to say this again: you are reasoning outside your evidence. You’re also, in this case, citing evidence that does not refute Jason’s claim, even if the evidence was strong, which it is not. In social science, one study is not strong evidence. I really don’t know why I have to keep saying that.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Because you’re more committed to your views than you think Shaz is to his?

        Just throwing that out there.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          I’m not really sure what that comment means, Still.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Think about it a bit. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Nope. I’m inferring that you think I’ve got a dog in this fight, which is wrong, so if that’s what you’re implying, you’re off-base.

              Unless you’re saying “my view” is that Shaz is doing social science wrong.

              In which case, yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m more committed to that view than Shaz is to this view. Because Shaz is doing social science wrong (and it’s worse in this thread than in the other one).

              It’s one thing to build a constructive argument without checking for falsification, which is what I was talking about on the other thread. That’s doing social science wrong (or at least, it’s just giving you really weak results). It’s another thing to take a study and say it’s strong evidence that makes what someone is saying completely untrue, which is worse.

              See, it’s entirely possible that Shaz’s theory is right (which I’ve said, a couple of times). I’m not committed to “guns reduce violence” or “guns increase violence” because the evidence is conflicted for both propositions (which is what my OP was about, really). I’m not interested in proving Shaz’s theory wrong for the sake of defending guns.

              I don’t even own any goddamn guns.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Nope. Your missing the point again. You’re views are on this issue are (and I could go through the threads and find citations for this, but Gawd-a-mighty praise-be-the-lord I’m hoping you don’t make me do that) that the causal analysis of gun related violence has nothing to do with guns; that empirical evidence confirms that violence isn’t correlated with gun possession/ownership, even tho you concede (which was an earlier point I made!) that violence statistics are unreliable across culture and even within cultures; the there is no measure which could possibly constrain the outcomes liberals desire to achieve (except trigger locks, I think), that nothing – NOTHING! – could have stopped Adam Lanza type sprees (systematically of course).

                I mean, you’re predispositions are clear in all this, Patrick. And that’s alright. I don’t have any problem with that. But the continual assertion that you don’t have a dog in this fight is getting tired.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                that empirical evidence confirms that violence isn’t correlated with gun possession/ownership, even tho you concede (which was an earlier point I made!)

                That’s not my read of his argument (though I haven’t read everything he has written). I’ve read his argument to be that analysis does not confirm a (causal) relationship between violence gun possession/ownership and not that it confirms a lack of (causal) linkage.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Wow, you got so much of this wrong.

                There is no established causal link between gun ownership or gun laws and violence, generally. There is no “causal analysis” in the sense you’re talking about, only strong correlations or weak ones – which are very study dependent.

                you concede (which was an earlier point I made!) that violence statistics are unreliable across culture and even within cultures

                Well, of course. I conceded this and this actually makes the first point more valid, not less.

                there is no measure which could possibly constrain the outcomes liberals desire to achieve

                I haven’t said that anywhere. I’m not even certain what outcomes “liberals” desire to achieve. I’m pretty sure that the general outcome – reducing violence, is something everybody wishes to achieve. About the worst thing I’ve said on this score is that the proposals I’ve seen won’t achieve the outcomes that I’ve heard some people say are the reason they’re supporting the proposal. That says nothing about the nonexistence of a “policy proposal that will work”. It says “Jesus, people, give me something new that will work”. We’ve even talked about a couple of them.

                Hell, I’ve tried to keep people to stick to violence, generally, or homicide, specifically, or suicide, specifically, without crossing the streams everywhere and I haven’t even gotten that far. I’m drinking now. You’ve driven me to drink.

                that nothing – NOTHING! – could have stopped Adam Lanza type sprees (systematically)

                I see spree killings everywhere in the word, Still. I wrote a pretty detailed post about them. I’ve read an awful lot about security systems in general and crisis response systems as well and yeah, nothing leads me to believe that it is even remotely possible to prevent all Adam Lanza type killing sprees. Unless you’re specifically saying that “if it doesn’t use guns, it’s not a spree killing”. Then I guess you could amend the Constitution and impound all of the privately held guns in the country, and… oh, nope, it’s still going to happen.

                This isn’t because I want them to happen.

                In fact, if you use simple Bayesian reasoning, it’s pretty easy to see why. There are 7 billion people on the planet, and let’s be super-dooper liberal in our overestimation of spree killers and say there’s 1000 of them around at any given time, that might go off. Hell, let’s say forget the rest of the world, we just want to stop them here in the U.S. where there’s 308 million people and 100 of ’em at any given time.

                A system that would catch even a small percentage of them would have to be more accurate than anything I can imagine, and would put huge constraints on an incredibly large number of people. That’s just reality.

                If you think it’s possible to stop all spree killings, please tell me why.

                But the continual assertion that you don’t have a dog in this fight is getting tired.

                Still, tell me what the dog is. I really think you have some glasses on that have blinded you to half of what I’ve written on the blog in the last week if you think I’m a pro-gun and anti-gun-control guy.

                I don’t know what other dog you think I’ve got.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                There’s no way of knowing what you mean by “pro-gun and anti-gun-control” here, nor either separately, nor what you are saying you think Stillwater would mean by it if he indeed said that about you, which I don’t see where he’s done that. He’s said that you seem to him to have a dog in the fight, and indeed, you seem to me to have a dog in the *gun-control* fight, inasmuch as you have expressed a strong preference for efficacious policy, and you have, as far as I can tell, argued that, basically, efforts to reduce the amount of gun ownership of certain types of gun or generally (bans primarily, but also buybacks, but do those have much effect?), indeed, actual reduction within even the outside of the realistic range of reduction that’s conceivable, wouldn’t be efficacious in reducing events we should care about that you think should be the target of the efforts we undertake using energy we would reserve for them, namely violent crime of all kinds – (IOW, we should redirect that energy away from trying to influence who owns how many of what guns) — AND inasmuch as, to me, a reasonable understanding of the term “gun control” would mean efforts to reduce/control the proliferation of firearms – you know, controlling where guns are, who owns which kind, etc. If you haven’t argued these things, that’s news to me, but I obviously could be mistaken.

                To me that’s having a dog in the fight, *even if* the point you’re making by saying that you’re not an anti-gun-control guy is that, to you, gun control would also encompass safety measures like mandating trigger locks or safe storage, taxes on ammunition, or etc., and EVEN IF that’s a better understanding of what “gun control” means. Stillwater didn’t say he thinks you’re anti-gun-control. He said he’s getting tired of hearing you say you have no dog in the fight when to him it seems very much like you do.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                “There is no established causal link between gun ownership or gun laws and violence, generally. There is no “causal analysis” in the sense you’re talking about, only strong correlations or weak ones – which are very study dependent.”


                I don’t think you get to say that so matter of factly without at least mentioning the peer reviewed work showing theopposite that we discussed (and you have yet to offer a refutation of, which we can email to Cook if it gets technical) on this very thread.

                I’ll quote again:

                ““In sum, gun prevalence is positively associated with overall homicide rates but not systematically related to assault or other types of crime. Together, these results suggest that an increase in gun prevalence causes an intensification of criminal violence—a shift toward greater lethality, and hence greater harm to the community.


                There is a strong case for causation. The strength of the causation and the nature of the causal mechanism are debatable, but the existence of a causal connection is not, not until we have reason to reject Cook’s argument as unsound.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Just to be clear, Shaz is quoting social scientists.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                “It’s one thing to build a constructive argument without checking for falsification, which is what I was talking about on the other thread. ”

                Hold up.

                Did you find a peer reviewed paper refuting Cook’s argument (new, but not so new that there hasn’t been time for criticism) that there is a causal connection between gun prevalence and homicide rates.

                Because I did look (at least as much as you would expect given that this isn’t my damn job). I dislike the insinuation that I am intellectually lazy, given the work I am putting in to this, and given that you refuse to accept the conclusions of the papers I have quoted from without explaining where their argument fails.

                If you find the falsifying evidence, please cite it.

                I am done with this argument as I feel a bit disrespected. And if we can’t resolve the most fundamental question of whether gun prevalence causes homicides, this whole debate is worthless.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Shaz, I’ve *told* you what the limitations are of the paper that you’re linking.

                You keep saying that it’s strong evidence. All I am saying is that it does not qualify as strong evidence. It’s evidence, sure. It has an argument. It has a method. It shows results. I’ve said that already.

                This isn’t physics Shaz. We’re not dropping a ball and saying, “Look, there’s the gravity”.

                Okay, let me ask you this. If I find you a collection of citations that shows a result different from Cook, what are you going to say?

                They *will* show a result different from Cook. They will also use different methodologies, and different communities as a base, and there will be a whole slew of differences between them and the paper you’re citing.

                This will produce a state where we have a bunch of studies that come to different conclusions.

                Are you then going to say that “the conclusions of these aggregate studies do not support a uniform view”?

                Because really, that’s all I’m asking.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                For the record, the likelihood of finding a peer reviewed paper that directly refutes any one specific other peer reviewed paper is pretty small… typically, people in the social sciences don’t expend their research efforts *attempting* to refute someone’s research, directly. So if that’s what you’re specifically looking for, you’re looking for something that is very unlikely to be there.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                then there are the ones that refute decades of research…
                *shakes head*Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Yes, but they’re usually pretty remarkable in characteristics.

                Entirely new methodology approach to a problem. Significant increase in ability to measure.

                If we had much better violence statistics, we’d remove a large degree of uncertainty from a lot of this work.

                Case in point: the gold standard Cook mentions in this paper Shaz keeps citing is using firearm related suicide as a proxy for measuring private gun ownership.

                I can see that working relatively well in some states (particularly like California, where there is a high barrier for gun purchase) and horribly in others. It’s introducing suicide as a confounding factor in your measurement right at the start.

                I’m sure Cook had good reason to use this proxy; it may be the best measurement of private firearms ownership on a regional basis that he can get.

                But seriously, if there’s an argument for a gun registry that makes sense it’s this: we don’t even know who buys guys, why, how many they have, and where they keep them. It makes it very difficult to say anything with even a middlin’ degree of confidence.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                The Numbers are Out There. They just aren’t publically available.
                And the gun sellers/ammo sellers don’t want the research (read pay for it), I’d wager.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Kim, there’s a big difference between “the numbers are out there” and “we can collect them”.

                Gun manufacturers certainly know how many guns they make.

                But the point of sale has different regulatory requirements on a per-state basis. A gun shop in Arizona can sell a resident a whole bunch of things without any sort of reporting requirements that would be mandated in California.

                And someone who has a legal residence in Arizona and California can buy a whole crate full of assault weapons and bring them to CA, and nobody’s the wiser unless they register them (and they’re not going to register them because they don’t want to lose them).

                Or, a registered firearms dealer who buys a bunch of guns in Arizona can go to a gun show in Kansas and sell a bunch of them.

                I highly suspect that the geographical distribution of guns doesn’t look much like the per-state sales numbers.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                The guy I know collecting stats (mailing addresses) on “crazy gun owners” was using ammo purchases as his proxy.

                Granted, that’s also prone to distortion: if you don’t use your gun, and can’t be scared into purchasing ammo for something you don’t use…

                Mike, if you’re around, does ammo go bad after a while?Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


                If stored properly, ammo can easily last 50-60 years or longer. I have ammo for my Mosin that was canned during WWII.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

        Nit picking.

        Here is a reference to the data on international correlations:

        “Across high-income nations, more guns = more homicide.” We analyzed the relationship between homicide and gun availability using data from 26 developed countries from the early 1990s. We found that across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded.

        Hemenway, David; Miller, Matthew. Firearm availability and homicide rates across 26 high income countries. Journal of Trauma. 2000; 49:985-88.”


        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Shaz, that’s a correlation!

          Am I explaining it that badly?

          I’m going to go to bed. In the morning, I’ll try to regain my thoughts.

          Shaz, my apologies if I’m coming off like I’m insulting you. This is not my intention. I think you’re a smart person and I respect the fact that you’re buttressing up your opinion with an actual bit of science (and I wish more people did this).

          My only objection is that you’ve looked for, and found, something that supports the position you hold, but it doesn’t appear like you’ve looked for something that refutes the position you hold.

          This isn’t calling you lazy. This isn’t saying that you have an obligation to go farther than that, or anything like that. If that’s enough evidence for you, that’s fine. But there are a lot of conflicting studies on gun possession and crime, because they’re all looking at different methods.

          If I have time in the next couple of days, I’ll dig up a few. I’m not trying to make you change your mind, or anything. I just want you to know that this isn’t as cut and dried as it appears (to my reading) you think it is.Report

  14. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    That said, I do think it is very important to note the two things that you noted (especially for people who don’t follow the news and public policy debates closely and critically).

    1. The war on drugs is a massive problem and creates a lot of violence and homicide. We could save lives by ending it. It may be our biggest social problem (bigger than drug abuse) and the so-called serious people don’t want to talk about ending it.

    2. Violence (and homicides and gun-caused homicides) are on the decline in society. This is great news. We have more work to do (and the social science I cited suggests that this will require gun control at some point) reducing these rates, but we shouldn’t be in a panic about how “things are getting worse, what happened to my country?”

    I do worry that we may have picked most of the low hanging fruit in attacking the causes of homicide (leaded gasoline as a cause of aggression for example) and getting the rates lower is going to get harder from here on out. But things are not getting worse. (Fewer households own guns now, too, though each gun-owning household owns on average more guns. So we have that going for us.)Report

    • Avatar Just Me says:

      “Fewer households own guns now, too, though each gun-owning household owns on average more guns. So we have that going for us.”

      I would amend that to “Fewer household legally own guns…”

      I have not seen any stats about the number of household that illegally have guns. Straw purchases would not be such a big deal if they were selling the guns to people who legally could own themReport

  15. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    When I follow the link to the graphic showing the decline in violent crime and the murder rate, two things jump out at me when I look at the time series. The first is that the murder rate seems to fall immediately during and briefly following recessions. The second is that there were large declines during the Clinton years; the decline halted immediately when Bush took office; and the decline began again when Obama became President. The lead hypothesis’ biggest weakness would seem to be that it won’t be able to explain why the decline in murder rate stopped during that specific interval. And while the decline in violent crime overall continued during the Bush years, it certainly slowed.

    My interpretation is that there may be a correlation with lead regulation lagged 20 or so years, but there are clearly other factors as well.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Lead-related brain damage lowers IQ and causes impulsive and anti-social behavior. Since lead levels continued to decrease, there must have been some other basis for this syndrome during the Bush administration. Hmmm.Report

  16. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    “This symposium / flamefest / general dragging down of League — is entitled Symposium on Guns in America. This would include anything gun-related, including what I’ve brought in on this thread.”

    Again, I’m sympathetic.

    The participants here can’t even agree whether the prevalence of guns (especially handguns) causes higher homicide rates. (As near as I can tell, all those on the right or the libertarian sides of the political spectrum do not think gun prevalence causes higher suicide, despite the research I have cited.)

    Well, if we can’t agree on that (even if we dispute how powerful the causal relation is) there is not much to debate, really. (We could dispute whether there is an inalienable right of self defense and how far it extends to a right to own various weapons, but if guns don’t cause higher homicides rates, the question of whether we have a right to certain weapons is moot, as there is no need to regulate or ban them anyway.)

    By analogy, imagine a symposium on global warming where most of the participants don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming.

    BTW, has there been an OP in favor of any kind of gun control yet? Has anyone wrote in favor of strict gun control? (Not criticizing, just asking.)Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Do you mean actual guns? Like, the things that shoot the bullets?


      So much for liberal’s implicit desire to take everyone’s guns away. We don’t even offer it as a suggestion in a symposium. There is no camel’s nose!Report

  17. Avatar GordonHide says:

    If violent crime in the US has declined, at least in terms of incidents per 100,000 population, perhaps the US is just following the world pattern as outlined by Steven Pinker’s book “The better angels of our nature”.

    Or perhaps, despite the US electoral system, a smidgen of European social democracy type legislation has crept into the body of law. This would make the US less internally competitive and reduce the overall level of anxiety. A happier population is a less violent population. (Refer to Phil Zuckerman and Gregory Paul’s stuff).Report