Gun Control Frenzy: National Homicide Rates Don't Tell The Whole Story

Gun Control Frenzy: National Homicide Rates Don’t Tell The Whole Story

In an October, 2017 article for The Washington Post, statistician and former writer at FiveThirtyEight Leah Libresco wrote that once upon a time, she was pro-gun control.

She used to support “common-sense” gun control legislation that would ban “assault” weapons, restrict suppressors (also known as silencers), and even shrink magazine sizes. Then, she started to look into the data in order to figure out which policies would actually make a difference.


She said that broad-based legislation isn’t going to solve the problem, but that targeted, small-scale interventions at victim and perpetrator levels might be more beneficial.  Gun violence is a symptom of more serious pathologies that gun control cannot solve. Libresco eventually discovered that no restrictive measure would actually have prevented the 33,000 gun deaths she analyzed.

If the real data related to gun deaths in America was made available and people were able to put two and two together on their own, perhaps more of us would get to the same conclusions that Libresco reached. But, news outlets spin the news. They also misinterpret the news. Sometimes, willingly. Sometimes, simply because they don’t know any better and because mass shootings are extremely emotional topics and responses are fear-driven. The result is an explosive cocktail of misinformation that often leads to bad policies and yes, more gun deaths.

In an article also from last year, economist Ryan McMaken explained that gun death rates tell a very misleading story.

Because news outlets like to keep it “simple,” they will focus on national gun rates. But the United States is a large country with states that are as diverse and unique as they are (somewhat) independent. Each state has its own set of gun restrictions and laws. And as expected, each state has a different homicide rate. When analyzed independently, McMaken demonstrates, we are able to tell a very different story.

The nationwide homicide rate in 2016, the FBI reported in 2017, was at 5.3 per 100,000 while in 2015, it was 4.9 per 100,000.

But when you look at individual states, homicide rates ranged from a low of 1.3 per 100,000 in New Hampshire while in Louisiana, they ranged from 11.8 per 100,000.

Gun policies primarily restrict the freedom of law-abiding citizens, and they ignore the real issues and reasons that are likely to coincide with gun violence—mental health, gang activity, drug abuse, and poverty—to name a few.

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8 thoughts on “Gun Control Frenzy: National Homicide Rates Don’t Tell The Whole Story

  1. I once thought I had found a political party I could believe in with Liberterianism. I thought that the “duopoly” parties cared only about their agenda and not doing what’s best for our country. I have now discovered that the Libertarian party is not one bit different. This party is so hell bent on it’s agenda of fighting any and nearly all forms of government regulations that you don’t even care about protecting our students and other innocent victims of of mass killings. You immediately flood social media and emails with sensational headlines such as this one and mock anyone who says enough is enough. Enough is enough with Libertarianism too. Shame on you.

    1. Exactly the point of the article. Letting your emotions color logical thinking. Did the war on drugs stop drug abuse? Did three strikes deter crime? Did the “just say no” campaign do anything? No it did not.

      1. “Logical thinking” is rather subjective. “Facts” and figures are also manipulated by anyone and everyone to shore up their particular “logic”. Numerous factors are at play with these mass shootings and we should address ALL of them. “Logic” might tell you that military style weapons play somewhat of a role here, no? Nothing emotional about that. You do however bring up a valid point about emotion. We have become so desensitized and polarized that many of us are incapable of the emotion called empathy.

        1. Suicidal mass shooters (who don’t expect to survive the event and apparently have no escape plans) are not going to obey gun laws. While I don’t own a gun, myself, I am considering getting one because the world is dangerous, especially for the weak, the small, the female, the law-abiding, and those in a minority. If one is attacked by a mob or a football half-back wielding a baseball bat, one needs to be armed with something besides one’s own army or gang, or blunt instrument. Guns are “equalizers.”
          This problem will never be solved by disarming the law-abiding first. Too many law-abiding people know that such bans are null and void, anyway (in violation of our inalienable rights). Only when murder and assault is no longer a fact of life will the time come when people give up their weapons willingly. It’s a fantasy to believe that passing laws will ever be the answer to this problem.
          We should be figuring out how to disarm governments: they kill more people en masse than anyone else.

  2. I live in Brazil, where it is almost impossible for a law abiding citizen to legally own a gun.

    Do you think we are safe because of that?
    Criminals carry machine guns in broad daylight, because they couldn’t care less about the law.

    Americans, don’t give up your sacred right of having firearms!

  3. Cars are weapons like guns. We should treat them analogously. There should be no restriction on ownership or operation on private property but licensing required of users in public. Similar sensible restrictions should apply to each, such as physical and mental competency to operate in public, no history of non-compliance, etc. Ample training facilities are available. Perhaps background checks akin to security clearances could work in concert with meaningful psychological profiling to keep both cars and guns out of the ones likely to do harm.

    Our collective “no-profiling” mentality is as responsible for the school shootings as anything else.

  4. I’ve commented on this site before. I lean strong Libertarian. However, I’m more included to think like Judy (above). How in the world does a Libertarian position of “Gun policies primarily restrict the freedom of law-abiding citizens, and they ignore the real issues and reasons that are likely to coincide with gun violence—mental health, gang activity, drug abuse, and poverty—to name a few.” provide any insight as to how that would reduce gun violence? Another real reason is someone (whether mentally unstable, fit of rage, planned) can go across the street and buy a military style weapon and go shoot up a place. Wouldn’t it be smarter to have a ‘positive’ background check where you can’t get a gun until you are verified as ‘safe’ and trained on the weapon. How does that infringe on anyone who ‘should’ be able to buy a gun.
    Maybe the Libertarian policy is I can go buy a jet plane and fly it. Oh wait, I don’t know how to fly but that shouldn’t stop me, right?

  5. We need to reduce taxes, so that parents don’t both have to work so hard, and can raise their children to respect the rights of others. And, if they don’t do it, maybe one of the neighbors will.
    We need to stop injecting politics and politicians into every last aspect of life, prefering to have the government send enforcers to set a violent example for settling disputes and problems. We can’t afford to be so lazy we don’t win support using persuasion and voluntary non-violent social institutions, instead.
    We need to listen carefully to the speech of others, and respond when we hear a cry for help.
    We need to defend the right of free speech from censorship, especially if it is hate speech or expresses anger or frustration. Speech is the best and most appropriate outlet for those emotions. To ban speech is to ban rattles on rattlesnakes.
    It is folly to blame the acid for an acid attack, the fist for a beating, or the bathtub for a drowning. We owe the survivors something that will work, not fake “action” that won’t. Not only won’t it work, but disarming people is what all despots do before they mass murder them.

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