It is as predictable as the rising and setting of the sun. Whenever a tragic mass shooting occurs, as just happened at Umpqua Community College, the gun-grabbers come out in force to lament the “lax” gun laws. Never mind that this latest shooting occurred in a “gun free zone” (media reports stating otherwise are flat out wrong). Never mind that Chris Harper-Mercer apparently purchased all of his guns legally and thus went through a background check. Never mind that criminals by definition don’t obey laws, including gun laws. America is still far too lenient when it comes to allowing private citizens to buy and keep guns. We need more laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals!
To prove that more oppressive stronger gun laws save us from gun violence Slate.com trotted out a study by The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV). The obviously unbiased study – sarcasm intended – ranked each state from 1-50 according to the rate of gun deaths per 100,000 population. It also ranked each state from 1-50 according to the strength of its gun laws. The more difficult it was to legally obtain a gun, the higher the state’s ranking. The LCPGV then graphed the two ranking to show the correlation between gun violence and gun laws.
The states in the lower left of the chart have the strongest gun laws and the best ranking for gun deaths, while the states in the upper right have the weakest laws and the worst ranking for gun deaths. In fact the death ranking of 50 for Wyoming, one of the states with the weakest laws, is 50 times worse than the death ranking of Massachusetts, one of the states with the strongest laws. Obviously, Massachusetts’s lawmakers and legislators in states like California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, and Illinois are doing a much better job of protecting their citizens than the uncaring slobs in Wyoming, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Montana, and Alabama. Right?
Where would you feel safer, Casper, Wyoming or the murder capitol of America – Chicago, Illinois? This chart screams BS!
The jack-booted analysts at the LCPGV tortured the data to within an inch of its life to force it to conform to the predefined conclusion. Are you really 50 times more likely to be killed by a gun in Wyoming than in Massachusetts? Of course not. The death rate from firearms in the Cowboy State in 2013 was 16.7 per 100,000 people. That means a total of 102 people died from a gun. The death rate in Massachusetts was 3.1 per 100,000. That’s a little more than 5 times better than Wyoming’s rate NOT 50 times better. It also means 209 people died from gunfire in the Bay State. Had the LCPGV graphed the actual death rates instead of their phony-baloney rankings the death discrepancy between the free states and the oppressive states would have been much smaller.
But a death rate that’s 5 times greater still sounds like a big difference. Wyoming must be one hell of a dangerous place. Not really. What do the statists always bring up when they press for stricter gun control laws? Crime. We have to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and to do that we need more laws that make it harder to get a gun. Let’s ignore the fact that these laws only hobble law-abiding citizens and instead examine if these laws actually have any effect on preventing murder. According to LCPGV’s chart they do. But that chart isn’t telling the whole story and the gun-grabbers know it.
The chart looked at TOTAL gun deaths in each state. That includes people who were accidentally shot and people who committed suicide. In fact, suicides account for 2/3 of all gun deaths. Of the 102 people who died in Wyoming in 2013 roughly 68 did it to themselves. According to the FBI, only 17 murders were committed in the state that year and not all of those involved a gun. That means the gun murder rate was under 2.9 per 100,000, not the 16.7 tossed around by biased journalists.
Is it right to include suicides and accidents in your data when you push for gun laws to stop criminals? Of course not. Suicide doesn’t involve killing someone else and has no effect on crime. And if you’re worried about getting accidentally shot then stay away from guns. Just because you’re paranoid about improbable events doesn’t give you the right to inflict your paranoia on someone else by pushing for unnecessarily burdensome and ineffective gun laws.
I redid LCPGV’s chart for them using the FBI’s gun murder statistics from 2010, the most recent year I could find complete data. The chart changed radically and now tells a different story.
On the original chart there was a clear correlation between gun death rank and gun law rank. But now that correlation has disappeared. The “safe” states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland don’t look as safe anymore. In fact Maryland, at 5.1 gun murders per 100,000 people has become one of the most dangerous despite its draconian laws. And look at Wyoming. What was originally the most dangerous state has joined such anarchic hellholes as South Dakota, Vermont, and Idaho as one of the safest. Of the 10 states with the least restrictive laws, 6 of them have lower gun murder rates than California, the most gun repressive.
Once we look at the relevant information the statist argument falls flat. As with most of the progressive agenda, gun control laws have nothing to do with the welfare of Americans. As the term explicitly states, gun control is all about control.
Wayne Middlesteadt is the author of Five Ways to Beat the Market and The Golden Age of Distance Running.