31 March 2011

Gun Control and Cost Analysis

Reason Magazine takes a crack at leftist myths:

The opponents rely on a litany of horribles. The Violence Policy Center in Washington claims that since May 2007, individuals licensed to carry guns killed 286 private citizens and 11 law enforcement officers and committed 18 mass shootings. This gory record, it asserts, destroys the myth that permit holders are generally law-abiding folks who behave responsibly.
In fact, VPC's own data, when inspected closely, doesn't dent the case for gun rights. Over the past four years, there have been more than 60,000 homicides in the United States. The slayings carried out by permit holders amount to fewer than one of every 200 murders. For every licensee who killed someone, there are more than 20,000 who didn't.
Nor does the evidence indicate that allowing people to carry pistols causes crime. Many of the shootings done by permit holders took place in their homes—where you don't need a concealed-carry license to keep a gun.
Some of the killings weren't even done with firearms: Among the cases cited by the VPC is a 2008 strangling in Florida, allegedly by a man who was licensed to carry. How can strangulation be blamed on a concealed weapon permit? If a fisherman kills someone, do we ban fishing rods?
Often, notes Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, the murders were premeditated or committed during the course of other serious crimes. In those cases, the license was irrelevant—unless you assume that someone willing to break the laws against murder or rape would not be willing to break another law by packing a sidearm.
What is extremely rare is a homicide committed by a permit holder in a public place in a fit of anger. Reviewing an earlier two-year database compiled by VPC, Kleck found only five cases "where possession of a carry permit may have contributed to the occurrence of the killing." Such episodes are not quite flying pigs, but almost.

Leftists are primarily concerned with population control, but it would be politically suicidal to forthrightly admit this.  Therefore, they are reduced to making utilitarian arguments against gun ownership and concealed carry permits, and this story highlights several flaws in the leftist anti-gun argument.

The biggest problem is the analytical filters.  As noted in the linked article, it is absurd to suggest that concealed carry permits play a causal role in strangulations or home shootings.  While there may be a correlative role, it is insane to even suggest that depriving people of concealed carry permits would have prevented these killings from happening. The problem, in this case, is motive, not irrelevant means.

In addition to failing to account for causation, the leftists make quite a hullabaloo over absolute numbers instead of relative numbers.  Two measures are key:  The percentage of murders that occurred because concealed carry permits were used to commit the crime and the percentage of concealed carry permit holders that commit crimes where concealed carry was integral to carrying out the crime.

Let’s say, in a hypothetical scenario, that there were ten thousand crimes in the past year, twenty thousand people had concealed carry permits, and concealed carry permits were integral part of twenty crimes.  The relationship between concealed carry permits and crime would have a correlative factor of .002 and the relationship between concealed carry permit holders and crime would be .001.  This means that there is a .2% chance that a given crime was committed by a concealed carry permit holder and that there is a .1% chance that concealed carry permit holder committed a crime. As can be seen, the correlation between crime and concealed carry is relatively weak in this scenario.

From what I can tell, it’s even weaker in the real world.  Ohio alone issued more than 60,000 concealed carry permits in 2009.  The carry rate of the population is roughly .54%.  If we extrapolate this to the country in general, then approximately 1,691,000 citizens had concealed carry permits (since the data is, to say the least, incomplete during the two years of the aforementioned study, I will hold the concealed carry rate constant).  Furthermore, the total murders committed during those two years are assumed to total 31,683 (I used the Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter data from the FBI’s CUS database for the years 2008 and 2009).  Thus, the correlation between murder and concealed carry permits is around .000158.  The correlation between concealed carry permit ownership and murder is .00000296.  T

In addition, there have been plenty of people, most notably John Lott Jr., who have argued that there are plenty of benefits to having a populace that carries concealed weapons, most notably in the form of lower crime.  There are plenty of people who dispute this work, of course, but it is clear that concealed carry, at the very least, does not lead to higher crime.  It is therefore anti-crime or neutral.

As such, concealed carry permits offer a strong potential for upside, with minimal costs.  Even if concealed carry doesn’t provide a significant reduction in crime, it is obvious that it will not contribute to it.  Therefore, the utilitarian argument against concealed carry is null.

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