As highly debated as the topic of gun control is in America, there's almost no research into the causes of gun violence or how to prevent it. Until recently, there was a virtual gag on gun violence research because of a stipulation that federally funded research can't promote gun control.
In January, President Obama changed the game by defining gun violence as a public health issue, and calling for more comprehensive research. In response, University of California, Irvine professors Dominik Wodarz and Natalia Komarova created the first mathematical model to measure how legal gun availability impacts firearm-related homicide rates, published today in PLOS ONE.
Mathematical models are more than just equations--they use statistics and data to describe the way a complex system works, and predict how different variables might effect outcomes. This one provides a model for the full range of possible gun-control scenarios--from the total ban of firearms to the arm everyone approach.
"We're trying to bring epidemiological approaches to this field of gun violence and violence prevention, so we can predict what strategies are better for preventing death instead of just arguing about it," says Wodarz, a biologist who studies disease and evolutionary dynamics through mathematical models.
"What is under debate is essentially an epidemiological problem," he and his co-author and wife, mathematician Natalia Komarova, write in the paper. "How do different gun control strategies affect the rate at which people become killed by attackers, and how can this rate be minimized?"
They incorporated variables like the percent of the population that legally owns guns, the fraction of the criminal population that owns guns illegally, and whether you're more or less likely to die in an attack if you own a gun.
"For instance, if there is no gun control--guns are allowed--what is the percentage of the population that will take up their legal right? How many will actually carry it?" Komarova explains. "This is something that can be estimated."
Though with the previously published data available, their analysis suggested that a ban of private gun possession or a partial reduction in gun availability might lower the rate of gun-related homicides, this model can't tell us definitively how gun deaths might be prevented yet. It's just a preliminary model to how we might approach the debate scientifically, one that can be updated as more statistics become available. "There's a lack of data in the field," Komarova says, because of the effective ban on federal funding for this type of research. "One of the purposes of the study was to encourage people to go and study these things." The researchers liken it to trying to diagnose a disease without having access to things like the patient's temperature or blood pressure.
The researchers plan to continue their work with the model, possibly incorporating how the controversial Stand Your Ground law--the self-defense law that gives people the right to defend themselves against attackers without the obligation to try to retreat from the altercation--might affect homicide rates.
Any science related to gun violence is bound to be controversial, and though they didn't need federal funding to carry out this study, the publication process was unusually rigorous here. The researchers had to satisfy the whims of 11 different peer-reviewers before publication (the typical paper only has a couple), something Komarova says has never happened to either of them over the course of publishing hundreds of journal papers.
"We complained to our colleagues and they said, 'What do you want? It's a paper about gun control," she says.
First, I lay 10 to 1 odds that Dominik and Natalia are liberals, and therefore biased. And anytime you are biased you are not "scientific".
Second, these 'statistics' are no better than the 'scientific polls' that don't mean squat. "For instance, if there is no gun control--guns are allowed--what is the percentage of the population that will take up their legal right? How many will actually carry it?" Komarova explains. "This is something that can be estimated." And an estimate is as good as the biased estimator. Even unbiased estimates are mostly guesses and therefore, bullshit.
Third, self defense is a right. And until you can guarantee me that:
A) all criminals will be disarmed as well
B) the government will never oppress me or my progeny ad infinitum.
C) I will never be forced to have to fight to save my life or the lives of my family against a physically superior attacker, or any attacker at all for that matter.
It will be difficult to explain to someone, that from now on they have to be Hulk Hogan or die because you cannot defend yourself legally with a firearm anymore. That it is your responsibility to have to fight for your life when some idiot attacks you because they like your nikes, or your jacket, or your wife. So, what if you're not capable? You die? Isn't this going backwards? To a time when survival of the fittest ruled?
Furthermore, since they will do away with all firearms, I assume the police will no longer have any use for them either.
Ya know what's so damn stupid about gun control? It's that they actually believe that human nature can be legislated. I wonder what percentage of the population was murdered before guns were invented compared to today.
I also lay 10 to 1 odds that if we ever ban guns the murder rate will not fall at all. Illegal guns and other forms of murder will just increase to fill the gap. Laws already exist against homicide, suicide, terrorism and any other form of murder. And you can pile as many laws on top of that as you want. You will never stop the dark side of humanity from carrying out its evil will. That is - not until we have matured as a species.
I know - your all going to start quoting me stats on other countries that have gun bans and less murders. My answer to you is that not all societies are the same. There are places on earth where people have matured as a whole. Just not here.
Today's magic is tomorrow's technology.
As they say, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Of course the statistics would be more meaningful if they use a comprehensive data set that also includes the number of robberies and violent crimes thwarted as well as the lives saved by citizens wielding guns. I'm not holding my breath though. Two reasons:
"Their analysis suggested that a ban of private gun possession or a partial reduction in gun availability might lower the rate of gun-related homicides." Really? That's not what the evidence of the last three decades of U.S. data says. In virtually every place where strict gun bans were removed or struck down by judges and the Supreme Court, homicides went DOWN even as guns became easier to legally obtain. Can these researchers explain why? If not, then they have no business publishing their "analysis" for public consumption.
Having your research reviewed by 11 other "peers" is supposed to give us confidence that this is unbiased? Since when? If the reviewers all have the same bias as the researchers, it doesn't matter if there are a thousand of them; it's still a bogus review. Here's a better determination of bias, or lack thereof: do the researchers themselves own guns or have they ever used them for sport?
The overwhelming majority of legal gun owners consider their guns defensive weapons used for sport, not offensive weapons to indiscriminately kill people and commit crimes.
Gun control resembles trying to deal with racers going 70mph in a 25mph zone by lowering the speed limit to 20mph.
Considering about 1/2 of America is liberal and 1/2 is conservative (based on the popular vote in the last election), the probability of all 11 reviewers being of the same bias is absurd.
Naturally, more work needs to be done on the numbers they input into the formula, but as they said, essentially no research has been done on this before so existing information is limited.
>"... Dominik and Natalia are liberals, and therefore biased."
That sounds like a bias.
But really, it's not just about gun control. This is equally an opportunity to test that gun ownership can reduce or prevent gun crime too. It's a chance to have a real investigation into sound gun policy. Put these ideas to the test! If you think they don't need testing, THAT'S A BIAS.
I have data.
In fact, the only real data.
Children die because of gun use.
People die in their homes, on the streets, in stores, workplaces, schools and on and on from gun violence.
Being armed yourself does no good.
Neither do background checks.
America is out of control when it comes to stupidity and violence.
Guns only add to the problem.
We need gun control now.
The NRA and other gun groups never had an answer to the problem of gun violence and the causes.
All they ever do is hide behind the Second Amendment for their right to bear arms.
The Second Amendment is outdated and has nothing to do with the America of today.
The Second Amendment must be amended.
It is time to stop people from owning guns.
The only right in this matter is the right to be free from gun violence.
George Vreeland Hill
'The researchers plan to continue their work with the model, possibly incorporating how the controversial Stand Your Ground law--the self-defense law that gives people the right to defend themselves against attackers without the obligation to try to retreat from the altercation--might affect homicide rates.'
The first thing they will have to do is shed the naivety of the difference between murder and justifiable homicide. For example, the SYG portion of Florida 776.013 is section 3.
It clearly indicates that the person can not be doing illegal activity and "who is attacked." That means that assault and battery is occurring on the person and it isn't limited to defending one's self with a firearm, but by any means necessary. Furthermore, the cause of robbery is perps taking things from others.
In a nut shell, Pop Sci should give up the Criminology schtick. The DOJ had an interesting report that came out a couple of months ago and it was written by a couple of Ph.D. level statisticians yet it gets ignored because it does not conform to the Gun Ban Lobby's talking points.
'They're liberals!' 'They're biased. !' The usual meaningless comments from the gun rights crowd.
If you want to get a good idea what the results would be under a few ACTUAL circumstances, all you have to do is look to England, Canada, and Australia---where you can't have a gun, period.
I'm not a statistician, but I do know a good amount about statistics and I would love to see the data this group was able to collect. First off, its impossible to know the true population mean, so these graphs are purely based on a sample of the public ??? There are over 300 Million people in the US, how many data points were sampled? Where did they get their crime related data, was it for a specific area of the US or did they actually sample the entire US?
There are way too many questions about this study. There is no way for them to give a good accounting of such a statistic. This sounds a lot like some student reaching a little too far mixed with professor with a political agenda.
George Vreeland Hill, step away from our Constitution Obama in disguise! It was written by very wise men who wished for the people to stay free from both their Govt, criminals, and the States.
You want stats? Look at the statistics for death, maiming, and paralysis via the Automobile! There are More people killed Daily in the US alone by the dastardly Auto, than via firearm per year.
Where is your outrage to squelch the Auto? Where is your shouts for restrictions on horsepower to 12hp or 20mph max with foam rubber front ends and no hard points whatsoever within the vehicle. And while looking at the inside remove all distractions from the driver so No radio, cd, XM, video, music, and every time it's started a near field Cellphone jammer turns on to prevent distractions in that arena.
Nobody NEEDS to drive 70mph do they? Nobody Needs to drive across country, make that illegal to as they can be forced to take some sort of public transportation.
Or would all those suggestions stomp to firmly on your personal life? Have you ever fired or touched a firearm? Have you hunted for sport of shot clays as sport?
Now the hard questions for you. Are you married/have daughters? Could you stand there or cower on the floor after being beaten while some thug beats and r.a.pe.s. your daughter/wife? All the while their begging and crying for you to help them?
Oh yeah you had time to call the police and they'll be there at the best time of 20minutes. Oh you didn't call? Well they'll come afterwards to fill out paperwork and take them (if you're still alive) to the hospital for a That Test. And if you're really lucky you won't have the devil spawn birthed by your wife/daughter to remind you of the ordeal.
Oh you had an abortion? Well chalk that up to the SECOND highest murder incidence in the world. Abortion, snuffing out a life that never had a chance...
People like you should place signs in front of your house stating your a gun free zone. And don't call for your Armed neighbor to come help either.
So we're supposed to ignore the wealth of already-existing research that shows no correlation between gun ownership and gun violence because a couple of (I'm sure) unbiased California academics managed to find the right combination of variables to cook up some numbers suggesting fewer guns would reduce violence?
Thanks, I'll pass. I know PopSci was sold off from Ted Turner's propaganda machine, but seriously, when are you guys going to give up being a mouthpiece for the left?
You US citizens are crazy.
Look at the rest of the world, look at Europe, is there another state in the world that gives civilians free access to weapons? And now think of what kind of USA you like to live in the future.
I'm a Canadian and I own a gun.
It really isn't that hard to get a rifle or a shotgun up here.
Handguns are easy to get illegally and hard-ish to get legally :-)
Ask yourself: What else are you casually wrong about?
Did you know that according to some statistics, the US and Canadian crime rate is identical IF you adjust for differences in each nation's racial makeup?
According to this guy:
If “black men [were] murdered at the same rate as everyone else, the overall [homicide] rate would drop to 1.9 out of 100,000 population. That would give the United States the 147th highest murder rate in the world."
Does PopSci usually write articles about stuff without quoting THE recognized maven on the topic, in this case, John Lott?
PS: Does PopSci always use the word "whims" to describe peer review journal requirements when the subject is "global warming"? Just askin...'
@William Wilgus You can own multiple firearms in Canada, England, and Australia. Of those three I think Canada is the most conservative with their restrictions. Russia, to my knowledge, is more liberal than all three - to the extent of requiring different licenses for a shotgun and rifle.
Each country tracks and defines crime differently, which means any comparison is going to be approximate. That said, its not even a valid comparison. No other country has a history so steeped in tradition and respect when it comes to firearms, they are literally engraved into our history and culture. No other country is so large and has so many guns. The US has 9 firearms for every 10 people, the next highest country is Yemen with 5/10.
According to Wikipedia:
Population/Annual Homicides (including firearm and non firearm related):
US: 319.9 million/14,748
UK: 62.74 million/722
Canada: 34.48 million/554
Australia: 22.32 million/229
Russia: 143 million/14,574
As you can see Russia has the highest homicide rate of the four despite its liberal policies. Russia has 8.9 legal guns per 100 people compared to the US's 94.3 guns per 100 people. But unless the demographics of any two countries is equal a comparison of the two countries homicide/gun ownership rate is not conclusive.
That said, looking exclusively at the US one can see that the firearm ownership rate is not reflected in the homicide rate, 9/10 guns compared to less than 1/1000 homicides. This data showcases a simple fact, guns don't cause homicides. Liberals don't get this. They think restricting LEGAL access to what is ultimately a tool, an augmentation of human intention, is going to prevent criminals from committing ILLEGAL actions.
Like I said in a previous article, knives (used in 1,694 homicides in 2011) make a far better tool for intentional homicide and are used far FAR more frequently than rifles (323) or shotguns (356). As a matter of fact, "personal weapons" (728, as the FBI defines them) are used in more homicides than rifles or shotguns... so why are not those regulated?
Because that is not the agenda.
The Second Amendment is not about homicide rates, it's about maintaining freedom. Read Glenn Beck's book "CONTROL" about guns, he did a lot of research and has a lot of references you can check yourself. You will see homicide rates really have very little to do with gun control and actually WENT UP in England when guns were outlawed.
I am very skeptical of UC Irvine professors and all professors for that matter, academia has been totally taken over by liberals, conservatives need not apply. Like the greatest President of modern times said. “It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.”
Two observations, from someone who read both the article and the linked paper before responding:
1) Ms. Ferro stated at one point, paraphrasing the paper:
"Though with the previously published data available, their analysis suggested that a ban of private gun possession or a partial reduction in gun availability might lower the rate of gun-related homicides, this model can't tell us definitively how gun deaths might be prevented yet."
That's interesting! What I find even more interesting is what the paper actually says:
"This paper provides the first mathematical formulation to analyze the tradeoff in the relationship between legal gun availability and the rate of firearm-induced death: while more wide-spread legal gun availability can increase the number of gun-mediated attacks and thus the firearm-induced death rate, gun ownership might also protect potential victims when attacked by an armed offender, and thus reduce the firearm-induced death rate."
Seems Ms. Ferro forgot to include the second half of the conclusion! In essence what this tells us is that both sides are right, depending on the circumstances.
2) I don't believe murder with a particular weapon should be viewed in a vacuum. If someone wants to kill another person, they'll find a way to do it whether there's a gun handy or not. A study of murder rates as a whole comparing countries with and without outright gun bans would provide a more complete view of the matter, I believe.
You're going to condemn the entirety of academia as irreparably biased, misguided and confused, willfully ignoring the contributions of legendary bastions of objective wisdom like Albert Einstein, Freeman Dyson, and Richard Feynman (a guy who spent his life professing that both liberals and conservatives are naive, that both atheists and believers are fools)...and then replace as our model of enlightenment Glenn Beck? I mean, if you're going to replace some of the most brilliant minds in history, regardless of their beliefs or political affiliation (but they must be bleeding heart liberals if they got in, right?), with a Republican talking head, at least go for Bill O'Reilly!
You're damn right I'm biased. I'm not the one claiming to be unbiased. I am completely, one hundred percent FOR my right to defend myself and my family from some loon with muscles with a firearm.
As I said, without a firearm, the best case scenario would be hand to hand combat if some crazy criminal wanted to harm me or my family. But most likely he'd be carrying a weapon of some sort, possibly including an illegal gun. But most likely, since he's into this sort of thing, he's going to be a superior fighter, stronger, younger, male, etc.
So tell me again why I would want to give up my only possible means of winning that confrontation?
With a gun, you even the playing field against ANY attacker. Even a bear. Can you still die? sure. But at least your not sure to.
So yes, I am most definitely biased in favor of legal gun ownership.
Today's magic is tomorrow's technology.
@George Vreeland Hill
Have laws against murder stopped murder?
Have laws against rape stopped rape?
Have laws against muggings stopped muggings?
Have laws against theft stopped theft?
Have laws against drugs stopped drugs?
Than what makes you think laws against guns will stop guns?
And why should the only ones with access to them be the lawbreakers?
Today's magic is tomorrow's technology.
Before there were regularly enforced restrictive gun laws, the homicide rate was one fifth of today’s.
We have results on more than 65,000 restrictive gun laws, starting in 1495. Of those, not a single law has been followed by a decline in violent crime. Instead, violent crime has increased, in proportion to the severity of the law, and of the rigidity of enforcement. Contemporary accounts clearly tell us that gun laws in the “Old West” were seldom enforced – and when they were the homicide rates climbed. By the same token, the effects of a spate of “passed in panic” State and local gun laws from 1905 and 1906 can be clearly seen in the graphic below, as can the effects of the Gun Control Act of 1968:
But you have to admit that it is harder to kill 30 or so children without access to an automatic rifle. My county had almost half of it's population involved in a civil war 20 years ago and if you try to buy an automatc weapon today (via black market) you will find yourself in courtroom a few days later. So don't tell me that people will find a way, some of them probably will but a large majority won't if your gvt is effective. Just for the record, my gvt isn't effective at almost anything but there just is no messing with deadly things.
@tertertert "the probability of all 11 reviewers being of the same bias is absurd."
Actually, that's usually how it goes. The AGW debacle has shown that peer reviewers congregate into like-minded groups. i.e. You and I think alike, so we like each other and review each other's papers. There is no desire in today's scientific community for the search for contrary data. They are paid to make findings, not to be proven wrong.
In any case, this data only proves that models don't always fit reality. The countries with the highest gun homicide rate also have fairly strict gun laws. Some of the countries with the least restrictive gun laws (or none at all) have low gun homicide rates. This doesn't mean that having strict gun laws increases gun homicide rates or having loose gun laws reduces the rate.
In the end, the second amendment is about protecting our freedom. Prior to the revolutionary war, the British made it illegal to import firearms and gun powder into the colonies. Without firearms, the revolution would have been impossible. The British knew this. When (not if) the US government decides to completely toss aside the tenets upon which it was founded, the people will have to rise up again. If we aren't allowed to own guns, we won't be able to save our country.
Hilarious to see all the people complaining about bias, because they don't like the predictions of the model. About as stupid as complaining that your weatherman is obviously liberal/conservative because you don't want it to rain on your Veterans' Day/Gay Pride parade tomorrow. Would any of the people complaining about supposed bias pipe up as loudly over a study by the Heritage Foundation? I don't think so.
I'm strongly against outright gun bans, mostly on Constitutional grounds. Even if I believed that this research successfully showed that gun bans would decrease deaths, I probably would still not support gun bans. Banning private automobile ownership would also certainly decrease deaths. So what?
But my politics (and yours, and the researchers) are IRRELEVANT to this research. This is a site about science. If you think the shape of this model, or the probability estimates that inform it are wrong, EXPLAIN HOW! The point of PLOS is that anyone can read the paper. So go do it and stop asking questions and making uninformed comments.
In my city death by gun is more business related
then any thing.
The drug trade has armed rival gangs.
here and across America.
"Irregardless of the laws".
When a successful enterprise develops.
It expands and diversifies into racketeering.
We have found in central New York, lawyers on
retainer for organized syndicates.
In my area if you apply for a hand gun license you are denied
if its stated for defensive purpose.
We are seeing more children armed.
And most of them with psychological and emotional
problems and gangster mentalities.
I lost a friend walking out of his house be juveniles
that used him for.... target practice.
Shot in the neck in front of his home.
There should be gun control.
The dangerous, mentally ill, and criminal minded
have no right to bare arms.
Yet we can't keep the guns away from them.
Some of the greatest onslaughts were brought on
by known troubled individuals. Some in treatment.
Breaking news everyone, taking away everyone's guns results in people not getting killed using guns. Also, taking away everyone's cars results in less drunk driving.
Firearm related homicides are a red herring that we've been chasing for too long. The real statistic that matters is overall homicide and violent crime. The firearm is a tool, and yes it is sometimes used in the commission of a crime, but that does not imply that taking away the tool will prevent the crime. Criminals will find ways around any prohibitive law, it's what they do. Even if it was made impossible for them to acquire firearms (a laughably impossible prospect to anyone who actually understands firearms) they would simply find other tools to accomplish the same goals. Their motives would be unchanged.
And the claim that "finally we have data" is just as bogus. We've had data all along. Statistical data gathered from numerous nations showing that gun control has little to no positive effect and quite possibly brings negative effects as we've seen in Australia.
Peer reviews are anonymous.
Remember these gods who wrote your constitution were the elites of the day who couldn't even trust the people enough to give them real democracy.
The biggest problem I have with people claiming they own guns for hunting or self protection is that many (at least those I personally know) have military grade AR-15s with high capacity clips or something similar. Hunting should actually be called walking because if you fire more than a shot an hour, you're doing well. And self defence statistics show that the average number of shots fired is 1.2 per incident (at a range of a few feet, forget the exact number) and the vast majority of incidents are either one shot or emptying the whole clip. Saying you need a military grade weapon for self defence is nuts. The only reason to say you need a gun such as that is either penis compensating or a political statement.
They did not institute "real democracy" because democracy fails to protect people from each other. IS a tyrant any less a tyrant if they claim right of rule because there are more of them than there are of you?
In fact, this was a matter of much debate during the drafting of the constitution. The two opposing groups were the federalists and anti-federalists. Both of them agreed on the fundamental rights of man as described by philosopher John Locke. They differed over whether or not the constitution should contain explicit protection of those rights, the federalists held that it should, the anti-federalists believed that the people would never vote against their own rights. Thankfully the federalists won, because history so far has shown us they were right. And now we have both parties who seem to be doing their darnedest to undo all the work of those federalists.
Seriously, if you want to talk about how democracy is so great go back and read John Locke and The Federalist Papers. Educate yourself about the problems of democracy such as the tyranny of the majority.
Regarding your "high capacity clips" comment. Even if defensive gun uses on average require only a few rounds this does not mean they never require more. The second or two it takes to change a magazine can mean the difference between life and death. Never ever bet your life on an average.
Furthermore, magazine bans have never been shown to reduce the lethality of incidents of mass murder (a tremendously sporadic and rare occurrence to begin with.)
As for the "military grade weapons" bit, they're not. Military weapons such as the M16 or M4 are fully automatic, meaning you can just hold the trigger down until the gun is empty. The AR15s available on the civilian market are semi-auto only, meaning only one round is fired per pull of the trigger. Additionally, even if they are based off of a rifle pattern that is used in the military, so what? For one thing, nearly every firearm design on the market has either seen military use itself or is based off of another one that has. Even the Remington 700, one of the most popular bolt action rifles available is used by the American military as the M40 sniper rifle. And finally, what business is it of yours telling someone what they do or do not need to defend themselves? They are no threat to you, they will not attack you, and they may one day save your life.
As a gun owner (who personally owns what many would define as an "assault weapon" which is so hotly debated right now), I am compelled to comment. Many people are griping about an obvious gun control agenda as the motive of these researchers and I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what academics actually have to go through to publish their conclusions.
Many or most public policies are influenced and formed in part by the research and conclusions published by academics. What's a safe speed limit to put on this particular stretch of road? Why should we zone this undeveloped area of the city residential instead of commercial? There are very sound reasons for everything.
I know a few academics personally, an academics have an extremely tough career. To even begin to publish in a reputable and credited journal, they gotta get through their graduate and doctorate work first. And to past muster for publishing their conclusions, they have to get through an extremely rigorous peer review process. The surveying and gathering of statistics, that's also a very methodical process with very very strict standard operating procedures. The research methodology itself cannot be ALTERED by any political agenda. The academic/sientific process is set in stone.
The peer review process more or less comes down to this. To over-simplify it,it's a mutual anonymous vouching for the reputations of their colleagues and peers. In other words "My CV and reputation is bullet proof, and I vouch for this other guy's conclusions. His research methodology and the conclusions he derived from this methodology are sound. Here is my stamp of approval. I shall put my reputation on the line for vouching for this guys work."
The researchers may personally have gun control aspirations and may be biased, but the conclusions they come up with are in SPITE of that bias. Their research methodology cannot exhibit those biases or they'd be critiqued and discredited by their peers.
A lot of gun rights advocates are pro-science libertarians. The academic/scientific process remains consistent in SPITE of any political bias. When citing "Mexico this" and "Chicago that" and attempting to draw conclusions, VERY FEW people are qualified to do so.
I was and still am an opinionated gun owner but strictly on Constitutional grounds. The research may very well show guns are a legitimate public health hazard. And politicians may be influenced to enact gun control measures citing that research. But don't blame the research.