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Yet another isolated incident of gun violence

I talk quite a bit about guns. Today’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut — where a twenty year old assaulted an elementary school and killed 26 people, 20 of them kids — just leaves me dumbstruck. The only thing I can bring myself to say is, what will it take before people start treating these mass shootings as something more than isolated incidents?

This interactive map shows what I’m talking about quite well. A snapshot:

Since 1999, there have been 45 shootings in schools worldwide; 31 were in the States. Mass shootings are almost a daily occurrence in your country, and each seems to be going for a high score over the last. They are a much realer and more immediate threat than death by terrorism, or plane crashes, or bear attacks. Why are you as a nation so numb to this? Why is your immediate recourse as a nation to demand that people have readier access to guns, to demand that everyone go armed, to put more guns into the hands of more people who might for some reason feel oppressed and take it out on a school full of children?

Meanwhile, in China, children suffered a knife attack in an elementary school. 20 children were injured. Injured, not killed — which would almost certainly not be the case if the attacker had a gun. And people are talking about China having something rotten at its core. Why is nobody saying the same about America and the gun culture that would ignore such trending data?

Other posts you should read:
Kate Donovan: When you tie shootings to mental illness
Miriam Mogilevsky: If not now, when? On politicizing tragedy

Both of these posts lead me to the same conclusion: there is something larger going on here and the more we sweep it all under the rug and repeat the drumbeat platitude of “more guns”, the deeper into the delusion rabbithole we go.

And another: Greta Christina: The Newtown shootings: It is not too soon to start talking

Comments

  1. says

    I think gun ownership is a major bone that the elites tossed to the lower classes; it gives them an important sense of self-determination and may serve to distract them from their economic disenfranchisement.

  2. says

    I’ll only quibble on one point. ” Why is your immediate recourse as a nation to demand that people have readier access to guns, to demand that everyone go armed…” That’s not our response “as a nation.” However, our response as a nation is cede the floor to those who do make those demands and that makes us all accomplices.

  3. Bean says

    Hey Jason. I hate to be a quibbler but the Chinese school attack is just the latest in a string of school attacks by mentally disturbed men. Most of them have involved knives and some of the children were killed. Comparing the two incidents is a real oversimplification because the Chinese medical system has a major weakness in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
    (From Global News)

    Otherwise, great post. Thanks for the map. Great visual

  4. anoynmous says

    Lets ignore the US for a moment:
    Canada: 31/100 shootings on map: 1
    England and Wales: 6/100 shootings on map: 1
    Netherlands: 4/100 shootings on map: 1
    Norway: 31/100 shootings on map: 1
    Sweden: 31/100 shootings on map: 1
    Finland: 32/100 shootings on map: 1
    Germany: 30/100 shootings on map: 4
    Swiss: 45/100 shootings on map: 0

    This seems to me like school shootings and gun ownership are rather unrelated, in fairness the us outranks all of these countries with a 88/100 in gun ownership but if thats true we would expect this trent to go more down the line.
    the other argument but its the people who own the guns: the swiss did not enforce there gun-laws until 2008, there for nope that should not be a issue.
    but lets for compare the death by gun stats:
    El Salvador: 50.36 vs 5.8 rate 00.00086 Total: 69.2
    Jamaica: 47.44 vs 8.1 rate 00.00058 Total: 52.2
    honduras: 46.70 vs 6.2 rate 00.00075 Total: 91.6
    Guatemala: 38.52 vs 13.1 rate 00.00029 Total: 38.5
    swaziland: 37.16 vs 6.4 rate 00.00058 Total: 12.9
    Colombia: 28.11 vs 5.9 rate 00.00047 Total: 33.4
    Brazil: 19.01 vs 8 rate 00.00023 Total: 21.0
    Panama: 12.92 vs 21.7 rate 00.00009 Total: 21.6
    Mexico: 11.14 vs 15 rate 00.00007 Total: 16.9
    Philippiness: 9.46 vs 4.7 rate 00.00020 Total: 5.4
    South africa: 9.41 vs 12.7 rate 00.00007 Total: 31.8
    United States 9.00 vs 88.8 rate 00.00001 Total: 4.2
    Montenegro: 8.55 vs 23.1 rate 00.00003 Total: 3.5
    Paraguay: 7.35 vs 17 rate 00.00004 Total: 11.5
    Nicaragua: 7.14 vs 7.7 rate 00.0009 Total: 13.6
    Zimbabwe: 4.75 vs 4.6 rate 00.0001 Total: 14.3
    Serbia: 3.90 vs 58.2 rate 00.000006 Total: 1.2
    Finland: 3.64 vs 32 rate 00.00001 Total: 2.2
    Costa Rica: 3.32 vs 9.9 rate 00.00003 Total: 10.0
    Uruguag: 3.24 vs 31.8 rate 00.0001 Total: 5.9
    Croatia: 3.01 vs 21.7 rate 00.00001 Total: 1.4
    Barbados: 3 vs 7.8 rate 00.00003 Total: 11.3
    France: 3 vs 31.2 rate 00.000009 Total: 1.1
    Austria: 2.94 vs 30.8 rate 00.00001 Total: 0.6
    This is the top picks and the lowest on the list is:
    Sweden 1.47 vs 31.6 rate 00.0000 Total: 1.0

    Excuses any Math errors on my part ( i did it rather quickly while not fully awake so its more then likely there are a lot of errors in the above )
    rate is based on Gun deaths / Guns / 1000 and should result in the death rate per gun, generally rounded numbers ( incorrectly rounded ).
    Now personally it looks kinda random to me and i can’t tell for or against gun-laws based on the data, it seems to have no relation to the total figures, and it feels like I’m missing a variable or a couple of variables to make any sort of conclusion out of this data ( keep in mind this is a lot more then your map provided me with ), the map originally moved me more pro gun ( as there are some heavy gun countries like sweden / norway / the swiss that have relatively low school shooting rates doing the math leaves me with a inability to find a relation between the amount of guns in a country and the total number of people killed in a country, it seems like the US is a statistical odd ball in that respect.

    Give my general political stands of less is more ( outlawing less is better ), i don’t see any motivation to start outlawing guns, keep in mind i picked the top of the list in terms of gun related deads ( so i did not select with any biased other then high rates of gun related deads ).
    So i have to remain skeptical of your position, and would request you to do the hard work of providing data ( if you want to not allow people to do something that seems like a rather small burden ).
    Also keep in mind zero guns is impossible for any country, so anti-gun laws feel like a waste of money to me just like anti-drug laws or anti-hacking-tools laws, the spirit might be good but the enforcement is expensive and the effect as far as i can tell is minimal at best ( on both the total
    murder rate and the school shooting rate ).

    sources:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#By_country

  5. rq says

    #7 There’s a difference between gun ownership and gun control. Perhaps you should factor in how easy/difficult it is to acquire firearms in all those countries and also how much training people have to undergo in order to be legally allowed to carry them/handle them/transport them/shoot them for fun.

  6. anoynmous says

    @rq i used gun ownership as a proxy for diffuculty of ownership, I do not have statical data on the diffeculity of gun ownership that i can do math with that is meaningfull.
    Now the assumption at the root of this is clearly that the harder you make gun ownership the few people will jump you hoops to get a gun ( this seems like a reasonable base assumption ).

    Well i’m perfectly willing to accept the difficulty factor as a solution to my lack of correlation i would need numbers on this in order to accept this as a root cease, and given i currently have not come across these numbers from a unbiased source, so at best i could say we need more studies on this ( something that we well always do ).
    Alternatively you could invalidate my proxy by proofing that diffuculity of ownership and amount of owners are unrelated ( but you would need a nurmerical definition of diffuculity either way ).

    just stating that might be the problem is no where close to proving that my root problem might be there ( while i’m perfectly willing to accept i have some errors in my work and there are some major math fails in there i’m sure (in my defense it was 4 in the morning local time when i made that post)), i currently lack the data for a conclusion and given well the burder of proof is not on me ( as i’m not advocating a rule change ), i would request you to do the work of proofing your position rather then saying well it could be factor X without any data to support it.

  7. Timothy Greene says

    School homicides have fallen steadily over the past decades. Has the number of guns in America fallen? Of course not. Violent crimes in the nation’s schools (rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault have also fallen. These two trends follow along with the general population. Source: National Center for Education Statistics and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  8. shaundenney says

    Anonymous – three points
    1) The UK (actually Dunblane, Scotland) massacre happened before private ownership of handguns was banned, and was the driving force behind that change in the law. There hasn’t been a school shooting since. The vast majority of firearms held are shotguns, for vermin control & wildfowl shooting.
    2) At the other end of the scale, Switzerland has a high level of gun ownership. It has also had a ‘well-regulated militia’ since long-before 2008. The majority of the adult male population, spends time conscripted into national service (women also volunteer), during which time they are required to train regularly, and keep their personal weapons securely at home when not on duty, and are accountable for their use. This fosters a disciplined approach to private firearms (which are also regulated), which is in no way comparable to the culture of gun ownership in the US.
    3) In Scandinavia, Germany and Canada, again, private firearms are largely held for hunting, & vermin control.

    It’s really only only really the US that has a culture that violently rejects gun control and demands the right to bear arms for defence (i.e. to shoot people).

    I would suggest these things would go some way to explaining your lack of correlation. I would also suggest that the mass-murder of schoolchildren is a bad excuse for a poorly thought-out statistical wank-fest attempting to justify avoiding the regulation of guns.

  9. Timothy Greene says

    Ending the failed drug war would go a long way in putting a stake in gun violence. Like abortion to many conservatives, gun control is an issue many liberals feel strongly about – but which is not going to change any time soon.

    News of shootings such as found in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, or at Columbine, are rare indeed. So rare they make little impact on the overall statistics of gun related homicide in America. Imagine if the evenings’ news programs displayed pictures of all the children who died yesterday riddled with tumors and lesions and weighed half their normal weight due to cancer. Would the public then be a little more concerned about cancer? You bet we would!

    Gun control advocates using these anomalistic events as the whipping rod for revamped efforts to stem gun violence do their cause a disservice when failing to mention that gun violence as a whole has steadily declined across America for now, decades.

  10. gridironmonger says

    I would be interested in an analysis of mass shootings in regards to the following topic: what percent of locations/targets have a connection to the shooter vs being more or less random? For example, the Newtown shooting was at the mother’s place of employment (and it seems implausible that this is mere coincidence). Very often it seems to be the shooter’s workplace, school, etc. but sometimes it is more tenuous although still demonstrable (such as the 101 California St shooting in SF in the 90s). On the other hand, my understanding is that the Aurora shooter had no particular connection to that movie theater.

    The reason I’d be curious about this is whether it would be useful as a counterpoint to the asshole “teachers should be armed” reaction that has already sprung up. If there is commonly a connection between these mass shooters and their victims/place of victimization, then the converse would be true — preferential treatment in hiring should be given (all other things being equal) to teachers who do not own any firearms. I know the probabilities are infinitesimal, yada yada, but this incident made me realize that previously I would not have asked about teacher gun ownership when considering which school to send my kids to.

  11. says

    Timothy Greene
    Gun control advocates using these anomalistic events as the whipping rod for revamped efforts to stem gun violence do their cause a disservice when failing to mention that gun violence as a whole has steadily declined across America for now, decades.

    More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?
    America now has 300 million firearms, a barrage of NRA-backed gun laws—and record casualties from mass killers.
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/mass-shootings-investigation

    – – –
    1. We don’t know the percentage of Americans who live in a house with a gun
    2.The percentage of Americans who are in a gun household hasn’t dropped for 15 years and may be at 1970s levels
    3. The number of gun background checks is at a 14-year high
    4.Conclusion: There are still many guns in America, and the rate is not dropping any more.

    We don’t know the exact percentage of gun households in America, but the number of guns per capita is higher than anywhere else in the world. The percentage of Americans who live in a household with a gun is probably near its lowest level in decades since the mid-1980s, but that rate has not dropped in the past 15 years.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/25/gun-ownership-us-data
    – – –
    Cho said many of the risk factors are essentially universal to mass shootings in the United States, including access to guns, media exposure to gun violence and the scientific finding that males are much more likely than females to perceive violence as a legitimate way to resolve conflicts. The vast majority of serial killers are male, he added.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110120111029.htm
    – – –
    7. Increased gun carrying reduces community feeling of safety.
    This paper uses data from two national random-digit-dial surveys to examine public attitudes about gun carrying. By a margin of 5 to 1, Americans feel less safe rather than more safe as more people in their community begin to carry guns. By margins of at least 9 to 1, Americans do not believe that regular citizens should be allowed to bring their guns into restaurants, college campuses, sports stadium, bars, hospitals or government buildings.

    1. Batterers’ use guns in a variety of ways to intimidate their victims

    We analyzed survey data collected from over 8,000 males enrolled in a certified batterer intervention program in Massachusetts, 1999-2003. Recent gun owners were 8 times more likely to have threatened their partners with a gun than non-gun owners. Four main types of gun threat against partners were (a) threatening to shoot then, (b) threatening to shoot a pet or person the victim cares about, (c) cleaning, holding or loading a gun during an argument, and (d) shooting a gun during an argument.

    2. Batterers with guns are more dangerous than batterers without guns.

    We analyzed survey data of over 4,500 men in Massachusetts batterers’ intervention programs. Risk factors for having a gun included having gambling problems, having attempted murder, and having threatened a partner with a firearm.

    1. Where there are more guns there is more homicide (literature review).

    Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

    2. Across high-income nations, more guns = more homicide.

    We analyzed the relationship between homicide and gun availability using data from 26 developed countries from the early 1990s. We found that across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded.

    3. Across states, more guns = more homicide

    Using a validated proxy for firearm ownership, we analyzed the relationship between firearm availability and homicide across 50 states over a ten year period (1988-1997).

    After controlling for poverty and urbanization, for every age group, people in states with many guns have elevated rates of homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

    4. Across states, more guns = more homicide (2)

    Using survey data on rates of household gun ownership, we examined the association between gun availability and homicide across states, 2001-2003. We found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide. This relationship held for both genders and all age groups, after accounting for rates of aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and resource deprivation (e.g., poverty). There was no association between gun prevalence and non-firearm homicide.

    7. CDC’s WISQARS dramatically underestimates the costs of street gun violence

    This commentary emphasizes that cost of injury estimates that focus on medical costs and productivity losses of the victims (e.g., WISQARS) dramatically underestimate the costs of street gun crime. Costs of street gun crime also include costs to the shooters family, criminal justice costs, trauma of witnesses, the costs of avoidance (e.g., children not being able to go out and play), the likelihood of retaliation, and the destruction of neighborhoods

    2. Owners of semi-automatic guns are more likely to binge drink than other gun owners.

    We analyzed data from a national random digit dial telephone survey. Owners of semi-automatic weapons are more likely than other gun owners to be male, own a gun for protection, and report binge drinking.

    1. Motorists with guns are more likely to act aggressively (Arizona)

    Using data from a telephone survey in Arizona, we examined the relationship between road rage and gun carrying in motor vehicles. We found that self-reported hostile actions (e.g. obscene gestures, cursing or shouting, aggressively tailgating) were more common among men, young adults, and individuals who carried a firearm in their car.
    2. Motorists with guns are more likely to engage in types of road rage (USA)

    All these, and there are many more, are taken from Harvard Injury Control Research Center
    Firearms Research, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/
    – – –
    Protection Or Peril? Gun Possession Of Questionable Value In An Assault, Study Finds

    Sep. 30, 2009 — In a first-of its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090930121512.htm
    – – –

    And yet the gun freaks say that gun ownership doesn’t make any difference at best, but usually say the opposite of what research shows.

    What do you say to my response to your cherry picked ‘evidence,’ ya fucking freak?

  12. anoynmous says

    @shaundenney

    1) The UK (actually Dunblane, Scotland) massacre happened before private ownership of handguns was banned, and was the driving force behind that change in the law. There hasn’t been a school shooting since. The vast majority of firearms held are shotguns, for vermin control & wildfowl shooting.

    Signaler examples is exactly what I’m trying to avoid, because its well useless as it provides no ‘data’ that we can make predictions from there for i rather have predictable data before making laws, keep in mind have been school shootings in Germany and Sweden so apparently its not a fool proof solution so its gonna be a question of damage rate.

    2) At the other end of the scale, Switzerland has a high level of gun ownership. It has also had a ‘well-regulated militia’ since long-before 2008. The majority of the adult male population, spends time conscripted into national service (women also volunteer), during which time they are required to train regularly, and keep their personal weapons securely at home when not on duty, and are accountable for their use. This fosters a disciplined approach to private firearms (which are also regulated), which is in no way comparable to the culture of gun ownership in the US.

    I could rewrite this into a violent culture, we could write the swiss up as a high level of training requirement then, that would create a problem in my proxy ( so something i do have to address ):
    The problem here is that the militia membership is not the only route to get a buyers permit, and there for you can get ‘free arms’ while these are not assault rifles So again no you can have arms easier in the swiss region then regions with lower gun ownerships rates.

    3) In Scandinavia, Germany and Canada, again, private firearms are largely held for hunting, & vermin control.

    True generally weapons are used for hunting in the region, keep in mind this creates no problem with my proxy

    “It’s really only only really the US that has a culture that violently rejects gun control and demands the right to bear arms for defense (i.e. to shoot people).

    This could be very true but as always you have to use data to proof this i won’t take it at face value as well country X has a culture of Y is not really an argument its just subjective speculation and makes no predictions.

    “I would suggest these things would go some way to explaining your lack of correlation. I would also suggest that the mass-murder of schoolchildren is a bad excuse for a poorly thought-out statistical wank-fest attempting to justify avoiding the regulation of guns.”

    oke and here my anger comes out, this is exactly why everyone says we can’t have a debate about gun control just after a violent shooting because the arguments will be rejected for emotional reasons not because of reasons ‘statical wank-fest’ is a other way of saying i don’t believe in numbers.
    now given that gun control advocates have proven this TIME and TIME again, can you please stop crying when gun advocates say sorry you have proven that after a shooting there is no option for a reasonable debatte there for just shut up about it.

    All you have to do is proof to me that outlawing guns will have the effect of reducing violence in a objective way and i will be for outlawing guns my burder of proof is VERY VERY low on this, if you fail to be able to that then you might have to rethink your position.

  13. says

    MatthewLaboratory: and if you outlaw anything, only outlaws will do that thing. That’s a tautology. Making something criminal makes the participants in the thing criminal.

    And in this case, nobody’s asking to outlaw guns, and “nobody” presumably does not include law enforcement.

    Meanwhile, do you think the gun you use for sport would actually beat anything the military has on hand in their sock drawer?

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