Guns, Crime and Murder: Deterrence

I received some feedback to a comment I made to another blogger that became the seeds to his post.  She stated that events such as the Aurora shooting seems to be confined to America.  I suggested that she didn’t read much news.  To which she replied, “I meant schools and theaters and such, not in war zones.”  This got me to thinking I should really know a little more about this subject myself before I go righteously spouting off.

Below is a world map that graphs different levels of murder per 100,000 population.  The lighter the color, the lower the number of murders.  You can find the Interactive Map here.  Of course, we have to keep in mind that the biggest lies are usually statistics.  But, just looking at the map, maybe it’s better to live in Canada than the United States.  Keep in mind, though, that, to qualify as a murder, it has to be the action intent to take the life of one person by another person.  So, the map doesn’t take into account the number of people in Canada who are eaten by bears every year.  Antarctica is a really good place for not getting shot.  But you have to watch out for The Thing.

Current Worldwide Homicide/Murder Rate

There are, of course, a lot of issues in the news today relating to gun violence.  And other forms of violence also relate in several ways.  Some that I’d like to explore here are:

  • Relationship between overall murders and gun murders.
  • Relationship between murders and gun laws
  • Relationship between murders and occupation
  • Relationship between overall murder rates and mass murder rates.
  • Likelihood of death from murder vs. other death factors
  • Number of murderers on drugs or diagnosed with severe mental disorders
  • Philosophical and psychological spectra involved in mass murders.

I think I’ve already included enough points to make a fairly large book.  I’ll hope to release that by next January.  But, in the mean time, I wonder if we can draw some general conclusions that could help put a working knowledge of this at our fingertips.  Then we can say something more informed about the subject than “guns are dangerous, we should get rid of guns.”

There is a lost statistic.  Many people have pointed to it, but it’s not one that can be known, because no one keeps track of it.  This lost statistic is the number of assaults and murders that are prevented because someone protected themselves with a gun.  As more and more states have allowed concealed carry laws, this number is certainly rising.  The other side of the coin is that guns and alcohol allegedly will result in more killing.  Therefore, most bars are gun-free zones.  But there really is no evidence to suggest that allowing guns in bars would increase the level of violence or number of killings.  On the other hand, there are reasons to believe that gun-free zones are magnets for mass murderers.

Schools are gun-free zones.  When shooters walk in to make their sick statements of violence, they can be pretty sure that no one will resist them.  The theater in Aurora was a gun-free zone. Luby’s Restaurant in Texas was a gun-free zone by Texas law.  People who ate in the restaurant  had to watch or become the carnage knowing that their handguns were safely locked in their cars only yards away.  The San Ysidro McDonalds was a gun-free zone.  It was also the third choice of the shooter, after he canvassed two other sites and found they didn’t make good targets.

Criminals also like gun-free zones for committing other violent crimes and robberies.  Makes sense.  Why would you want to commit a crime in which you had a good chance of being shot?   Burglars don’t like guard dogs, surveillance cameras, high fences and an assortment of impediments to their crimes.  But mass murderers are planning to shoot everything and everybody.  So locks will not slow them down much.  Dogs will just be eliminated.  Cameras can be blinded.  The only thing that stops a mass murderer is himself or another gun.  Usually it’s in the hands of a police officer, after several victims are already dead.
As concealed carry laws have gone onto the books in more states, the number of murders from fire-arms has decreased.  Now that the statistic has leveled off and murders are beginning to rise again, there is debate as to whether concealed carry laws have actually had anything to do with the decrease in gun violence.  Since the number of prevented murders can never be documented, no one is ever gong to win this argument.  But it certainly tends to allay the fears of people who feel that an increase in gun ownership by law-abiding citizens is going to translate into more gun murders, or even more gun-related deaths in self-defense.  Many have reported that even making a potential attacker aware that the potential victim is armed has been enough to cause the assailant to flee.English: Yearly number of murders with firearm...

Others have made the point that, while hunting rifles are OK for hunting and hand guns are OK for self-defense, no one should be allowed to buy assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons.  The logic is that anyone who buys and assault rifle is planning an assault.  But consider a case that happened a half block from my house a couple of years ago.  A half dozen people were rousted from bed in the middle of the night when three armed men burst into their dwelling and began to demand a stash of drugs, not realizing that they were in the wrong house.  Somehow, one of the residents managed to escape out a window and alert police of the hostage situation.  The assailants realized he had escaped and they fled.  How lucky for these people that they are still alive.  If not for the escape, they would probably not have lived.  Let’s say that I could not escape and I’m going to have to face the three gunmen in order to get out.  I only have a hand gun.  What are my odds against three?  If I have an automatic weapon (assault rifle), I have leveled the playing field.

I am not so naive as to believe that it is that cut and dried.  I may only kill two and still be killed.  But at least I have a chance.  There is also the possibility that I will kill or injure my friends in the process.  That certainly is a good argument for thorough training.  And I certainly have a better chance of freeing my friends than the police who must, in many cases, come running blindly into the situation.  But let’s just think about what even firing a warning shot may have done to these intruders.  If hearing the police coming made them bolt, isn’t it quite possible that hearing a gun go off at close range might have spooked them?  (Of course, another thing to learn is to see who’s at the door before you answer it.)

A friend of mine, who lives alone with her daughter, just  bought a gun and learned how to use it.  Her neighbors are spread out.  She knows that police take time to respond.  She is not a gun buff.  She just has a brain.  After all, there is no big, strong man to protect her.  Even that is little comfort when the big, strong man is lying dead in the hallway.  Nobody wants to shoot a gun to kill people.  Even most criminals don’t want to kill people.  But when it comes down to us or them, we have a right to protect us.  It usually doesn’t have to go that far.  Having a gun is called a deterrent.  Sort of like having nuclear weapons.  No one wants to use them.  One side has them to keep the other from being tempted to use them.  So far, it has worked.  It will only work as long as the other side believes response in kind is guaranteed.   In terms of gun violence, that means, “I have a gun, and I know how to use it.”

(I may modify this in the future, as I analyze more data.)

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