War On Statistics

As the new American Congress girds up its loins to meet the challenges of our era, one high-priority item is the matter of gun control. Dozens of bills, ranging from the mere expression of pious wishes to Draconian severity, have already been introduced on this popular subject. Eutychus would scarcely venture to oppose something that has such good intentions behind it. On the other hand, since gun control has taken on the nature of a crusade (and we all know how bad the Crusades were), and since it is largely justified by crime statistics, it may be well to point out a few perplexing facts.

There is indeed a high crime rate in the United States, and not least among the crimes committed here is murder, which occurs at a rate of 8.5 per 100,000. Of the murders, just about half are committed with guns (4.21 per 100,000). Therefore we have more than 8,000 such murders per year. Perhaps we could reduce the number of gun murders by making guns harder to obtain. (There appear to be even more gun suicides per year, according to World Health Organization statistics, but presumably suicides would go on even without guns.) Of course, even in the absence of guns murder probably would not cease, for some people are killed without guns (France, for example, has a murder rate of 3.2 per 100,000, but only 0.24 are committed with guns).

There are approximately 100,000,000 handguns supposedly in private possession in the United States. That would be a lot to collect. We can assume that it would be harder to collect them from the violence-prone than from meek and inoffensive gun-owners who seldom resort to using them anyway. Hence reducing guns in circulation by, say, half, or 50,000,000 would not necessarily reduce the gun ...

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