What does Gun Control mean? What does the idea of common sense gun laws mean?
Shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, I got into a rather heated debate at the school where I teach. I am a bleeding heart liberal in a bone deep red state. I have respect for the people I work with, but we are clearly on different sides of the fence. Not just on opposite sides, we are miles apart on many issues and gun control is one of them.
One of the people I got into a debate with was quick to take the Nixon approach and questioned where I got my information from, pointing out that the information may be questionable because of its source. That same person then immediately threw out some of their own information which came from a source that is almost generally recognized as questionable.
After that, I spent some time doing two things. First, I checked out the information that was used as a counter argument, and found that the sources were indeed questionable, and that the information was completely bogus, one example having been retracted within 24 hours, the other having been thoroughly debunked. It actually took me no more than three minutes to dethrone the evidence that was used against my points.
The second thing I did was to wonk out my own information and not rely solely on the several different sources that I get my information from, to seek out bits and pieces of information to draw my own corollaries. Let me pass this on to you.
My first goal was to find out the number of gun deaths that occur, either by region or state. I found a great set of data from the State Health Facts Organization. (http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=113&cat=2) This organization is nonprofit, and has no real alliances with the Pro Gun lobby or the Gun Control Lobby. Their concerns are the overall health levels of Americans. In that quest they have put together lots of data. Birth rates, problem birth rates, death rates, death rates by race, and on and on. One set of data they have put together are the death rates by guns. This is not necessarily violent crime, though violent crimes are included. It is simply how many people die of a gun, including suicides and accidents. They broke the numbers down by state as a ratio of deaths per year per 100,000 people. The result is this map.
The key at the bottom shows the numbers. Red states have the fewest gun deaths at between 3.1 and 8.3 deaths per year per 100,000 people. Dark blue states have the most gun deaths at between 14.5 and 18.1 per year per 100,000 people. That is a sizable swing, the best state having only 3.1 deaths per 100,000, and the worst state having 18.1 deaths per 100,000. The question becomes, why the differences?
If you look at the map, you see some interesting things. New York and Illinois, where we assume death rates would be high, are actually in the low group. Sparse states, such as South Carolina or Montana, where you would assume the numbers would be low due to their more rural farming culture are actually rather high. Moreover, Nebraska, which you might lump in with South Carolina or Montana as it is also a rural farming state, has a very low number of deaths.
So a look at the map seems to find no correlations. Busy cities can be either better or worse, such as Chicago verses Atlanta. Quiet places also seem to have no correlation, such as Birmingham, Alabama verses Boise, Idaho. What other differences could exist that create these differing death rates?
I took a sample of a bunch of states and went over to www.FindLaw.com. This is a company that provides a search engine for all state laws. Useful if you are looking to relocate or have to litigate a matter across state lines. There I was able to look up each state’s gun laws, and lo and behold a correlation appeared. The low death rate states have the strictest gun control laws, and the highest death rate states have the most lax gun control laws. For example, all the low death rate states have a waiting period, ranging from three days to 30 days. All the high death rate states have no waiting period at all.
In all the states with low death rates, their gun control laws have been vetted by the Supreme Court and have been determined to not violate the Second Amendment. So what does gun control and common sense gun laws mean? It should mean looking at those states with the fewest gun death rates, and finding a path for making the measures they use Federal. Protection for the Second Amendment, and protection for the people.