As a word of caution: I'm not in the mood to look up these statistics, so feel free to correct me, or even to provide collaborating links.
First, I found it amusing that Kelly continue to give me statistical reasons to fear guns, when I've stated time and time again that I don't trust statistics--not even my own! He gave examples of the United States, or Finland, and of Brazil as positive correlations between guns in society and violence, and Great Britain as an example where they had less guns and less violence--then said that my conclusion that there is no correlation between guns and violence is false. It's interesting that he left off Switzerland (high-gun but low-crime) and former Eastern Bloc countries (low-gun but high crime) from the list of examples.
Second, Kelly never understood my desire to know the "guns per gun death" statistic. I wanted to test this basic idea: which society handles guns more safely? It is my suspicion that the Arizona would a lower rate of deaths per gun than Scotland--which would run counter to the idea that "more guns would be more dangerous in society". Alas, such data is difficult to find. Since I'm a big believer in looking at how things change over time, I'm hopelessly lost, because it seems rather difficult to find data like that kept over time, for Scotland.
But I would admit: I'm not sure if I'd trust such a number, even if it came out in my "favor". This is because it would rely on the number of illegal guns, which would be, at best, an educated guess. Heck, the number of legal guns in Arizona would be, at best, an educated guess, because Americans aren't required to register their guns to be legal!
Even so, now that I've been thinking about this, I'm curious: what is this statistic, and how will it change over time? I may distrust statistics, but I've learned enough in the course of becoming a mathematician that I have a tiny statistician in my soul that just itches to grab hold of data and run with it.
Third, in the process of trying to find these numbers, I stumbled onto two curious headlines. One was, in effect, "Scotland's murder is lowest in 31 years!" and the other was, in effect, "The Number of Guns in Scotland Have Increased!" As I thought about this, I found it amusing: a correlation that I could have exploited! I'm not sure anything would have come of it, though. It's just an amusing coincidence, after all.
Or is it? That's one of the funny things about trying to use statistics to understand society. As much as I admire John Lott's work, or Gary Kleck's, or other criminoligists and statisticians, we're trying to measure effects in a very chaotic system--a society of individuals, each with their own free will, making countless decisions over time on how best to act. It is very difficult, perhaps even meaningless, to point to a single thing and say "This caused that!".
I like to see what, in Calculus, are called "deltas"--changes over time. It would be impossible to see all the deltas--for example, why did Scots suddenly feel the need to buy more guns?--but if you're going to claim something like "banning handguns will reduce crime", then, to convince me of this, you'd better show me a reduction in crime after you ban handguns. Unfortunately, in Great Britain, violence has increased since the handgun ban. Kelly dismissed this line of reasoning, saying "handguns were practically banned before the formal ban, yet crime was rising before!" Well, his exact words were,
The whole concept of householders routinely owning or using guns for 'defensive' purposes was already an alien one prior to 1996. A practice has to have meaningfully existed before its 'removal' can be claimed to have made a difference.which is odd, because if the idea of having legal access to guns increases violence, rather than decrease it, then one would think that crime should have been decreasing well before 1996. Yet here's an essay (the only one I'll link to) that discusses how murder rates decreased steadily over six centuries as technological advances allowed more people in Great Britain to own guns, only to increase, beginning in 1920, when Great Britain began to ban guns.
Admittedly, it's based on a study--which means it's contestable--but if I'm to be convinced that gun control works, I'll first need to see studies that show the reverse, and have even more solid footing than the one to be contested.
So, there you go: some thoughts on statistics, based on a long and convoluted argument.