Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Time for leadership on shooting deaths

This time it was a Connecticut elementary school. What's next? I'm getting tired of people shaking their heads and not knowing what to do. Why? Is it the number of guns we Americans own? While we rank number one in the world for gun ownership at around 90 guns per hundred people, there is no correlation between number of guns and number of homicides. The Serbians and Swiss have half as many guns but a fifth the suicides. The Jamaicans have one tenth the guns and fifteen times the homicides.

I looked at the statistics on gun ownership and homicides and split it up many ways. It became rapidly clear that we are not like a European nation. In most European nations the ratio between gun ownership per hundred people and homicides per 100,000 is around 100: 1.
We have more in common with Latin American nations in this ratio of about 30:1. (A lower number is worse) Chile was a remarkable exception to this region with a ratio of 176:1.
But this regional breakdown wasn't helping much. It did seem to highlight the areas with the lowest ratios and it seemed like these were all areas where automatic weapons are readily available.

So the answer seemed obvious. It's the access to automatic weapons. There are whack jobs in other countries who try mass murder but with knives, like in China, they are just not that efficient. The same day as Sandy Hook, the latest madman in China stabbed 22 schoolchildren but only seven were admitted into a hospital and none were seriously injured. With an automatic weapon followed by Glock handguns and special ammunition, there was only one wounded survivor in Connecticut.

Why do we allow so many guns to be available in this country? I can understand rifles and shotguns for hunting but handguns and automatic weapons are designed for one thing: killing people.

Simple answer right? But then, being the good engineer, I started to look at the statistics. I plotted 'Gun Freedom Index'  versus my ratio, expecting to find a nice correlation.

Here's what I found instead:

Rats! Looks like a completely random scattergram. I found that extremely repressive governments have low homicide rates but who wants to live in China or Qaddafi-led Libya? (Wow! I sound like an NRA backer now)

I'd like our homicide rates to drop to those in Northern Europe. Of course you still whackos there killing off Prime Ministers and camping socialists but the overall number is a tenth as high as here.

It seems like some smarter people than I need to look into this seriously, find the cause and bring this country up to those standards.

But let's start by not publishing the names of these killers. The New York Times just listed the top shootings in America like it was a roll of honor with a column dedicated to the killers. There are enough crazies out there who'd like to get on that list. Let's not give them any more incentive. For the same reason, why do we know the first, last AND MIDDLE names of all the Presidential assassins? Let's keep them listed as shameful killers, nothing more.


  1. I think your last paragraph would be the strongest deterrent. This sort of atrocity should be reported as "An evil and or insane person (name withheld) did this unspeakable thing. Here are the victims and here are contacts for people who wish to help their families.

    1. I totally agree. I was disgusted when the first reports came out and all the media seemed to care about was the name of the killer. Why should anyone care? Let's memorialize the victims instead.