December 16, 2012 by SocProf
First of all, that previous post on this really got some attention. Geez. Quite a bit of pro-gun trolling too. Anyhoo, one thing comments made was that I did not provide the sources of my data. That one was correct. I forgot, so here it is (and more stuff here). And it has a few interactive maps:
Firearms per 100 people:
Ok, so, that’s pretty unambiguous.
Homicide by firearms per 100,000 people:
On this one, there are a lot of missing data (all the grey countries) but it is not surprising to see that the US, while raking #1 in gun ownership, does not rank #1 in homicides by firearms. One is more likely to find greater homicidal violence in countries that are less politically stable, failed states, etc. The US still ranks far higher than its economic counterparts in the OECD and other rich countries.
% of all homicides by firearm:
Here again, a lot of missing data, but the same pattern as above: the US, while not #1 is still pretty high in terms of the % of all homicides that are committed with a firearm (about 60%). That info, somehow, got controversial yesterday.
I wanted to take this further. Yesterday, I concluded my little data exploration with the correlation between inequalities and homicide levels within rich countries. Remember this scatterplot?
I wanted to explore that particular aspect further. So, I went looking for a GINI list and looked up the countries ranking right above and below the United States (slightly more equal or slightly more unequal) and for which I had complete data. I ended up with the table to the left.
So, all the countries you see listed on the left are countries that rank just higher or lower than the US on the GINI scale… except for Mexico. So why did I include Mexico? Because it seems that one of the pro-guns talking points is that comparing the US to the OECD is bad, we should compare instead to Mexico (a failed / failing state, stuck with great drug cartel violence along the border, and much corruption, and a steady flow of weapons from the US… yeah, totally comparable). I should note then, that Mexico ranks much higher than all the other countries in the table on the GINI scale. It is much more unequal than all these other countries. Therefore, one can expect much more significant violence (ya think?).
This table is a simple representation of the ranking in terms of firearm ownership, with the US ranking as #1, then Macedonia as #20, etc. Again, note that all these other countries, except Mexico, have roughly similar levels of inequalities as the US (they are slightly more equal or unequal than the US), which is interesting and revealing in and of itself. Also, I had comparable data for the homicides and firearms.
So, I went to work in Tableau.
I did not do any scatterplotting here. That would have made no sense since they all were very close in GINI coefficient (which is why I selected them in the first place). Instead, I got a bunch of bar charts to compare them straight measure to measure.
First of all, regarding the OECD / developed countries comparisons, one critique of my previous data was that I should have used total homicide numbers rather than ratios. That does not make much sense since all countries have different population sizes, but what the heck. Here it is.
This does not affect any of the statements I made yesterday. It confirms the same pattern.
Now, on the the US’s GINI neighbors.
Average firearms per 100 people:
No big surprise here, 88.8 guns per 100 Americans, versus 24.1 per 100 Macedonians, etc.. The US has overwhelmingly more weapons per 100 people than its GINI neighbors.
Holy Michael Manley! Jamaica! I don’t know if one can call Jamaica a failed state, but there is no doubt that a number of factors point in that direction: drug lords, corruption and failed political class, structural adjustments. Take your pick. Pretty much the same goes for Mexico and the Philippines. Now, looking at this list, the US ranks middle of the pack, but, again, look at the list: there is nothing to be proud of for a country like the US to have a lower murders by firearms rate than these countries. And look at the countries that have lower rates than the US.
Moving on, since I did it for the other countries, let’s look at total homicide numbers:
Yes, roughly 2,000 murder separate the US from Mexico. Chew on that for a while.
And, last but not least, everybody’s favorite measure: the percentage of all homicides that were committed with a firearm:
What this means is that, in Jamaica, for instance, 75% of all homicides were committed using a firearm, followed by Macedonia where that rate is roughly 62%, all the way down to Uganda where only approximately 10% of all homicides are committed with a firearm (the LRA does its dirty business with machetes and knives).
So what have we learned?
1. There is no avoiding the fact of the greater US violence compared to other developed countries. The US has many more homicides than these countries and 60% of these homicides are committed with firearms. It is absurd to argue that another weapon would be used if guns were not available. I already discussed this yesterday. Heck, maybe, without guns readily available, a few people would reconsider their urges to kill, because it wouldn’t be so damn easy.
I would argue (what with the data on greater inequalities, lower mobility in the US compared to the rest of the developed world) that the US is a more structurally and interpersonally violent. We know the two go hand in hand. The greater level of social insecurity pervades the social structure, combined with a culture that is more tolerant of violence (both structural and interpersonal) and promotes an aggressive version of masculinity. All of this is well-known and well-established.
2. Even compared with its GINI neighbors, and look at who the GINI neighbors are, for Pete’s sake, the US may not be the world’s most violent country (good grief), but it certainly has remarkable levels of homicides and homicide rates compared to these (mostly) semi-peripheral GINI neighbors. This should be a source of deep questioning and debate. But it is not because it is still a country where individualistic explanations for social problems prevail. To use C. Wright Mills’s famous formula in reverse, public issues tend to be interpreted as personal troubles and moral failings. This is not conducive to data-driven, reasonable public policy.
I am sure my fellow social scientists can draw further conclusions or come up with more data but I am closing comments for this post because I have better things to do with my life than clean up little turds that trolls leave behind on this topic.
However, I would very much like to read what Todd Krohn has to say about all this. He’s the expert on that one.