Monday, September 11, 2017

International Firearm Ownership and Firearms Homicide Rates

The data for the graphic above was taken from the Guardian, a leftwing publication in England. Firearm ownership rates are from the Small Arms Survey in 2007, so it is a bit dated. The per capita ownership in the United States has gone up considerably since then. It is now about 120 firearms per 100 people. U.S. citizens purchased 94 million firearms during the Obama presidency. They have likely purchased another 6 million in the first 8 months of 2017.  The firearms homicide rate fell from 4.19 in 2007 to 3.45 in 2014, but bumped up to 4.13 in 2015. (numbers from the CDC)

The chart shows that firearms ownership is not related to firearm homicides. That is somewhat misleading. What matters is not firearm homicides, but total homicides. Firearms availability could either increase or decrease total homicides.  I ran the data from the Guardian through a standard statistical calculator to see if there was any correlation between firearm ownership and total homicides.  There wasn't much correlation. The 110 States that had both firearm ownership rates and homicide data were used.

The horizontal axis is the number of firearms per 100 people. The vertical axis is the homicide rate.  As you can see there was only a small negative correlation, of -.137. That is not a strong correlation, but it shows that the homicide rate tends to fall a bit with higher firearms ownership.  It is not statistically significant.

It does not show causation. There could be many other factors involved. For example, the rise in firearms homicides in the United States in 2015 is likely correlated with the Ferguson Effect. Several large cities have essentially withdrawn active policing from urban crime centers because of accusations of racism. Homicides have sharply risen in those areas.  Another reason is general prosperity. Places where there is the rule of law usually have higher prosperity and higher legal firearm ownership rates. Both are associated with lower homicide rates.

The slight negative correlation between firearms ownership and homicides confirms observations made after reading most of the literature on the subject. The rate of firearms ownership has little to do with the overall homicide rate.

If there is a relationship, a higher legal firearms ownership rate means slightly less crime.

This does not mean that firearms are not useful. More likely, it means that people with firearms are less likely to be victims, and people without firearms are more likely to be victims.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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