Another of Klein’s 12 Facts About Guns. Fact? Not so Much. January 18, 2013Posted by geoff in News.
A month ago I wrote about Ezra Klein’s terribly misleading post: “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States.” He presented these facts in an effort to shape the gun control debate:
What follows here isn’t a policy agenda. It’s simply a set of facts — many of which complicate a search for easy answers — that should inform the discussion that we desperately need to have.
Perusing his list, you eventually come to #9:
9. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.
Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive:
And here’s the graphic Klein & Florida use to support this point:
You can see from his map that the North and Northeast are more light orange and yellow, compared to the South, which is dark orange and red. Since the South has fewer gun restrictions than the other regions, QED, yes?
But Florida’s “deep dive” into gun deaths is embarrassingly shallow, and Klein’s naive acceptance of his dive is embarrassingly true to form.
First, take a look at what Richard Florida really chose to plot. He uses all firearm-related deaths, and compares it to 3 gun control criteria:
- Assault weapons bans
- Trigger locks
- Safe storage
“All” firearm deaths includes deaths from suicides, homicides, and accidents. And as you can see, suicides dominate the firearm death statistics:
In the U.S. for 2010, there were 31,513 deaths from firearms, distributed as follows by mode of death: Suicide 19,308; Homicide 11,015; Accident 600. This makes firearms injuries one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S.
When 3/5 of your data is completely irrelevant to your point, I don’t think your case is well supported.
Then, of course, you have no causal mechanism for the link he’s trying to make. Suicides and homicides are not prevented by trigger locks and safe storage; those help prevent accidental deaths. And the assault weapons bans have no effect on the vast majority of firearms used in homicides. The FBI tells us that of the 8583 firearm-related homicides in 2011, only 323 involved rifles, let alone assault weapons.
So Florida’s plot is complete nonsense. His supposed correlation (the one Klein called “suggestive”) is based on only 1 – 2% of the firearm death data he’s using.
In the interest of being constructive, I’d suggest that Florida make 3 plots:
- Trigger locks/safe storage vs. Accidental deaths
- Assault weapons bans vs. Assault weapons homicides
- Concealed carry laws vs. Handgun homicides
Apples to apples, oranges to oranges. Fair and meaningful.
But I don’t suppose that was ever really his goal.