Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Fishy Study

Joe Huffman discovered another anti-gun blog...and the first thing I noticed about it was a a fishy study that was designed to make gun ownership look bad.  Like Joe, I put a comment on their site.  Unlike Joe, I have some hope that it will show up--I tried to avoid being clearly "pro-gun".  Nonetheless, I only have a little bit of hope, and I don't know if I'll get much of a response.  Thus, I decided to put that comment here, too.
I would have to confess that I'm very confused.  First of all, you just include gun deaths.  I may be wrong about this, but shouldn't you be using murder statistics instead?  If a policeman were to shoot someone robbing a store, that would be a gun death, but not a murder.  For that matter, if a robber stabbed and killed a gun store owner, then that would count as a murder, but not a gun death.

This is important, because the NRA and their ilk claim that legal guns push down the overall murder rate.

Second, I find your graphs confusing--especially the first one, which seems to cloud issues by cramming in as much data as possible.  The first graph is especially confusing, for several reasons:

-- By leaving off the names of the States, I can't see what's going on.  Yes, I know that's Excel's fault, but it's still a problem.  (Are you sure that Excel can't do this?  I seem to recall that Excel is <i>very good</i> at graph generation.)

-- Is it "volume of the spheres" or "area of the circles"?  If it's the first, then a lot of data will be obscured, because we're only getting an area representation of a sphere, which wouldn't be good.

-- What year of statistics are you using, and how do graphs compare to other years?  I'd like to know, because low-population states are more susceptible to fluctuations in murder rates.  To take as an extreme example, a small town of 1.500 people could have 0 deaths per 100,000 for decades, but two murders could cause that to jump to 115 per 100,000 for just one year, and then the sleepy town could go for another two or three decades with a death rate of 0 per 100,000.

Ah, heck!  I'm sure that my questions could be answered if I could look at the data myself.  Do you have a link to it, or have it available for download?  Thanks!
We'll have to see if I get any sort of response, or if it will become a victim of Reasoned DiscourseTM.

UPDATE:  the blog did post my comment, as well as a comment linking to an article that claims that the UK is surprisingly violent.  They haven't yet linked to any data, though.

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