NRAYouthDay

Last weekend, the National Rifle Association celebrated “youth day” at their annual convention. The event offered free membership to children and a chance to win a rifle or shotgun. Since last weekend, there were many tragic incidents involving youths and guns. Here’s a summary:

 

• Police in Waseca, Minnesota, arrested a 17-year-old with an SKS military-style rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a stockpile of explosives. He admitted during interrogation that he intended to attack his school and kill as many people as possible.

 

• A seven-year-old Indiana boy died from a gunshot wound he received while he and his brother were shooting ground moles in their backyard.

 

• A 19-year-old seminary student was shot by a Billings, Montana man who had invited him to stay at his home as a houseguest.

 

• A three-year-old boy in Cape Fear, North Carolina, died from a stray bullet injury.

 

• After talking for several days about his intentions to shoot whoever had burglarized his home, a man in Missoula, Montana, set a trap by leaving his garage door open with valuable items in plain sight. He shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old foreign exchange student who entered his yard.

 

• Parents at a little league game in Georgia called 9-1-1 nearly two-dozen times to report that a man openly carrying a pistol was stalking the game and refusing to leave. Police told the parents that that sort of behavior is legal in Georgia now, and there was nothing they could do about it.

 

• A group of children were questioned and a semiautomatic rifle was confiscated following reports that the children had been firing live ammunition over the heads of passing pedestrians in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

 

• A nine-year-old boy in Durham, North Carolina, fatally shot himself while playing with a gun.

 

• A 13-year-old boy was shot in Bedford, Indiana. Police are investigating.

 

• In what police are calling an accidental shooting, a 17-year-old girl was shot in the face in Scott City, Missouri.

 

• In Wichita, Kansas, a four-year-old boy opened the drawer of a nightstand and found a loaded handgun. He shot and accidentally killed his 19-month-old brother.

 

• A six-year-old boy turned over a loaded .45-caliber handgun to school officials in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

 

• An elementary school teacher in Del Valle, Texas, confiscated a 9mm handgun from a student who had brought it to class.

 

• A 13-year-old boy was apprehended outside a middle school in Mobile, Alabama, openly carrying a handgun.

 

• School officials in Stratham, New Hampshire, confiscated a gun from a student’s locker at a middle school.

 

• Two California teens found a loaded shotgun in the closet at home. The 16-year-old accidentally shot his 18-year-old brother.

 

• Students riding a school bus in Geneva, Florida, notified the bus driver that an eight-year-old had a gun in his backpack. The driver called police, who confiscated the gun.

 

• Police in Toppenish, Washington, confiscated a gun from a16-year-old student.

 

• White County High School was placed on lockdown when school officials realized a student had brought a gun to class.

 

• A fourth-grade student in Brandon, South Dakota brought a gun to school.

 

• a 15-year-old student brought a .45-caliber handgun to Canyon Lake High School in San Antonio with the intention of selling it. He was arrested.

 

• A Kansas City woman was shot and killed in a car when two 16-year-olds were trading guns in the back seat and one of them unintentionally fired a round.

 

• A 17-year-old student in Missouri City, Texas, was arrested for bringing a gun to school.

 

• Students riding home on a school bus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana got into an argument. When the bus dropped one of them off at his home, the boy ran inside, grabbed his parents’ handgun, ran back outside and fired shots at the school bus.

 

• A teenager in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, shot himself in the leg.

 

• A 14-year-old girl shot and killed another 14-year-old girl in Chicago following an online argument about a boy.

 

• After an argument with some young men in an apartment complex, a 16-year-old and a six-year-old were both shot in Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

• A Milwaukee toddler was playing outside and crawled into his mother’s parked car. He found a loaded handgun in the glove compartment, and fatally shot himself.

 

• An Alaska teen killed two state troopers with a semiautomatic rifle.

 

* A man in Delaware Township, Pennsylvania, pointed what he thought was an unloaded gun at his nephew. He unintentionally shot the 11-year-old boy in the head, killing him.

 

• A gunman in Jonesboro, Arkansas, shot six people before killing himself. The victims included a 13-year old girl (who died) and two boys, aged ten and eight, who were listed in critical condition.

This is the key question so many of us involved in the gun debate face. On a personal level, answering it has big implications for our families’ safety. As Amy discussed in a recent post, having a gun in the household increases the chances that someone in the household will die by gunshot, though even in households with guns there are many things you can do to keep your kids safer.

US and Japanese Flags With GunBut what about across the country? At the national level, the question has big implications for our country’s laws. Many people carry concealed or unconcealed weapons in public places out of fear of crime. Some people argue (see, for instance, here) that laws that allow easy access to guns and that allow guns to be carried in public places in the United States help to keep crime rates down. A recent study in The American Journal of Medicine – one of our country’s most prestigious sources of cutting-edge research in medicine and public health – concludes that that the answer is decidedly “No.”

The authors of this study examine rates of firearm ownership in 27 developed countries: from culturally relatively similar ones like Australia and New Zealand, to culturally quite different ones such as Japan. They also consider rates of major depressive disorder in those countries. Then they ask how firearm ownership and mental health problems in each country are related to the crime rate and the number of firearm deaths per person.

What they find is striking: the more guns in a country, the higher its rate of firearm deaths. The relationship is very strong, and holds up even when you don’t consider the countries at the extremes, such as the United States (high gun ownership, high firearm death rate) and Japan (low gun ownership, low firearm death rate). No matter how you slice the data, the more guns a country has, the more likely the average citizen is to die by gunshot. By contrast, there is a small, statistically significant relationship between mental illness and rates of gun deaths, but the association is very weak.

But some people might say that even if more guns means more gun deaths, criminals will be less likely to strike in countries where they fear that their potential victims could have a concealed weapon. In other words, maybe crime rates go down at the same time that would-be criminals are more likely to get killed. Unfortunately, once again the authors find that the answer is “No.” They find that there is no relationship between the number of guns per person in a country and the country’s crime rate. The U.S. happens to have a lot of guns and, in recent years, pretty low crime rates. But Japan has very few guns and even lower crime rates. And the UK and Israel have fewer guns than the U.S., but more crime.

Surely there must be some cases in which the presence of guns helps to prevent a crime, or in which potential victims kill would-be attackers. Still, this study has a very clear conclusion: on average and across the developed world, having more guns does NOT make countries safer.

Exactly nine months after the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, schools across the country countinue to face problems with guns on campus.

 

Week4

 

 

Week3

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Mass shootings are so common now that many aren’t even mentioned in national news media. We decided to keep a watchful eye one weekend, not to note every shooting (that would be an enormous undertaking), but every shooting involving multiple victims. Surely we’ve missed some. In addition to the 13 incidents on this infographic, we found several more, all from this weekend: two people were shot in Brooklyn NY; two in Lackawanna, NY; two in Buena Vista, MI; two in Union City, CA; two in Syracuse, NY; two in Jacksonville, FL; three in Rochester, NY; three in Asbury Park, NJ; three in Portland, OR.

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We recently posted an infographic about murder rates in Chicago as compared to other U.S. cities. Some skeptics thought we must be distorting the data. They complained that, while we did use an apples-to-apples comparison of Metropolitan areas, what they would have preferred was a comparison only of murders within the city limits. They also complained that we were comparing all murders, not just gun-related murders. Well, here are three different ways of comparing murder rates. As you can see, the point we were making (that Chicago is not uniquely murderous) bears out in each case. (And to reiterate, that’s the only point we’re making in this post–violence has many factors, of which gun laws are only one. We can’t point to any one factor and say “that’s why this city is more violent than that city.” But we can provide real data to combat factually inaccurate assertions.)

 

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And here are some supporting links:

Data table from the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Data table from the Centers for Disease Control

Article in PoliticusUSA on the most dangerous cities in the U.S. as of 2013

Article on Yahoo about the most dangerous cities in America

Article in the Chicago Tribune about murder rates

Article in the Wall Street Journal about the ten most dangerous American cities

Article in US News and World Report about the 11 most dangerous American cities

One argument we’ve seen ad nauseum is that Chicago has extraordinarily high violence due to its gun control laws. It’s true that Chicago’s homicide rate is higher than some other cities (Chicago has 6.4 homicides per 100,000 people, whereas New York has 4.5). There are so many variables affecting violence that we’re not sure how anybody could say conclusively how Chicago’s crime rates are affected by its gun control laws–especially since the city and the state have porous borders through which people can easily bring guns from neighboring jurisdictions. But what we CAN say conclusively is that Chicago is NOT EVEN CLOSE to having the worst violence in the U.S.

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“Bystanders got to Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 31-round magazine and was trying to load another.”

—Larry Burns, Federal District Judge who sentenced Jared Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years for his shooting rampage in Tucson.

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