Newsweek dropped a really ripe one today, full of misleading statistics and bogus rhetoric. But there’s a fascinating gem in the study itself that really needs to be highlighted. Let’s go through some screenshots of the Newsweek piece, to make sure they don’t go back and stealth-edit it later like Vox does, and then talk about that gem.
First off, we have an embed to a YouTube video about “America’s Gun Violence Epidemic.” I’m not even going to bother watching this, because we’ve already shown time and again that there is no gun violence epidemic in the United States. We are in the middle of a valley of the lowest homicide rate we’ve had in our history, outside a few years in the middle 1950s. Read about that here.
They did it again, did you see it? It seems like at least once per week a news outlet throws out a “39 thousand killed by guns” number without mentioning that two thirds of those are suicides and seven eighths of the suicides are men. They do this all the time, and then in the next sentence they pivot to talking about homicides, to fool the reader into thinking that that’s the homicide number. It’s not. Homicides are, annually speaking, about a third of that. We exposed those dirty tricks here, but this one is especially dirty because the article is about domestic violence homicides, which are in the neighborhood of 2000, not 39,000.
This is terribly misleading and sloppy statistics, but we can’t blame the researchers here, we must blame Newsweek. Kashmira Gander at Newsweek rips raw incidence numbers out of the study that have not been controlled for things such as black population ratio and Gini Coefficient (wealth inequality), which are known to dominate firearm homicides in multivariate analyses. As we spoke about here, black population ratio and wealth inequality are each five times more predictive of gun homicide rate than gun ownership rate is. And where do the black people live, predominantly, in the US?
And where do we find income inequality in the US?
The study does control for these things, however, just not in the table from which Ms. Gander cooked up her 64.6% number. What does the study author have to say?
Note that first quote. “Higher levels of gun ownership tend to have higher rates of firearm homicide and suicide.” At least he’s talking about suicide, that’s a start, but it would be nice if he’d point out that the multivariate correlation in prior studies between gun ownership rate and gun homicide rate is very faint. So faint in fact that you’d have to buy back 80 million dollars worth of guns to save a single homicide victim in a hypothetical buyback program. It would also be nice if Newsweek highlighted some of the most interesting results from his study:
Firearm ownership was associated with domestic, but not nondomestic, firearm homicide rates (Table 2). Across both sexes, the association between firearm ownership and firearm homicide victimization was specific to domestic homicides (IRR=1.013, 95% CI=1.008, 1.018). No association was found between firearm ownership and nondomestic firearm homicide (IRR=1.002, 95% CI=0.996, 1.008). The increased incidence of domestic firearm homicide as a function of firearm ownership was evident for both male (IRR=1.012, 95% CI=1.005, 1.020) and female (IRR=1.014, 95% CI=1.011, 1.018) victims, whereas nondomestic firearm homicide rates for male and female victims were unrelated to firearm ownership.
This is some tremendous science, if it holds up. This could be an Easter Egg that could seriously inform rational policy. Let me rephrase what this is saying. According to this study, the (already very weak) multivariate relationship between gun ownership rate and gun homicide rate goes to zero for nondomestic homicides, and all of that weak relationship is entirely due to domestic homicides.
If true, that’s an amazing find.
Let’s look at an old graph from last year.
Starting with the gun deaths pie, we see two thirds are suicides, one third are homicides, and there’s a few accidents thrown in. Looking at the smallest pie, the homicide pie, we see a tiny grey wedge which is domestic violence — usually around two thousand deaths per year nationwide out of around three hundred million citizens.
This new study looked specifically at the variation of that grey wedge as compared to the rest of the small pie. The analysis states that the only pie piece which varies with gun ownership is the grey wedge. (For the record, all of the suicide pie varies with ownership rate except for the women.)
If this analysis is true, then it proves with science that almost every single gun law proposed by the left wouldn’t work.
I’m surprised Newsweek didn’t pick up on that. Or maybe they did. Let’s continue with the Newsweek piece.
This sounds like a great idea. Let’s do this instead of banning rifles with pistol grips. But many states already do this sort of thing. Even in my deeply red state of Georgia, the cops come and take someone’s firearms without due process if someone else files a Temporary Protective Order (TPO) against them. I’m not sure how many states don’t already do this. It seems to me we could make some hay here by making sure the victims of domestic abuse file those dang TPOs. Even the men, which appear to make up 25% of the victims per this study.
This is the first and only time I’ll be specifically critical of the researcher. He studied homicide, not murder, and made no differentiation for justifiable homicide. How many of his data points were abused spouses defending themselves with firearms? I’d like to know this question, before I issue instructions to people who are in an abusive relationship to not defend themselves.
It would be nice to tell spouse beaters not to buy a gun. But are you going to tell the beaten spouses not to buy one? They might need it, seeing how they keep getting beaten up. Could we maybe go for a simpler solution, of getting people to not beat their spouses, or empowering the beaten spouse to file for divorce?
Let’s be clear about this:
If this study is correct, and every victim of domestic abuse were to get a divorce and flee their abuser, then the scant multivariate correlation between firearm ownership and firearm homicide in this country would completely evaporate.
Why isn’t Newsweek talking about that?