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Poisoned Perspective

By Guy Smith

When Knowledge of International Gun Violence Changes Everything

I love it when I can make an entire audience gasp. After 16 years slavishly grinding through dense data and the wretched array of pseudoscience proffered by the gun control industry, I have made an art of providing perception about guns, safety, crime and culture. None of my findings make Michael Bloomberg happy.

One of my charts in particular creates great grief among gun prohibitionists (and by all means drop by www.GunFacts.info, click on any chart and share it on your social media feed). Simple in nature–as all good data visualization should be–it displays homicide rates for every country against the number of firearms per capita. At first, my audience seems bored until I say, “Off on the left is the United States. The blue bars are homicide rates.” This is when brain cells inundated and slightly deadened by various policy groups and media outlets suddenly spark to life … followed by the collective gasp.

Not content to let an audience escape with too much comfort, I then say, “Incidentally, the worst of the worst countries in terms of murder–Syria, Rwanda, Somalia–they are not on this chart because they do not report their homicide stats.” Gasp number two. “Neither are countries where the government owns all the guns and commits most of the murders.”

At this point I let the audience try to resume breathing normally.

For too many people, perspective is about as pleasant as a proctology exam. My job is to insert perspective into uncomfortable places. Based on traffic analytics at the Gun Facts website, it appears I’m making people overseas clinch their intellectual butt cheeks.

Crime and Guns Everywhere

Homicides are one of the few variables upon which we can rely. The definition of other violent crimes–assault, aggravated assault, even rape–change from country to country. However, dead bodies are rather uniform. It is for this reason that most criminologists studying gun violence mainly review homicide statistics and sigh heavily when people want broad reviews of other crimes.

Another reason homicides are the common denominator in gun policy research is that guns are not the...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N10 (December 2017)
and was posted online on October 20, 2017

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