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 only way to kill people. Cars are used effectively (one case a woman, ironically named Ford, killed six and injured 23 when she intentionally took a detour onto a sidewalk). Likewise, knives were very effective (29 dead and 130 injured in a Chinese train station). Bathtubs are far too handy for the job as one mother proved by drowning five of her children. And let’s not forget when public officials get their hands-on government surplus explosives, as happened in Bath Township (38 children and six adults killed, 58 others injured). Don’t get me started on arson, which has been a weapon of choice since we humans discovered fire.

The other reason researchers rely on homicides when reviewing gun policy is that guns can be used to prevent murder as well as commit it. An interesting quirk among alleged academics working for gun control groups is that they only examine one side of that coin. But honest folks without axes to grind review both the pros and cons and too often walk away knowing the true nature of the issue.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the safety of women. Perhaps I am biased by a Southern upbringing, but a woman with a gun is a thing of beauty and a danger to behold if you attack her. Women in other countries are not as fortunate, either in their stiffness of spine of choice between revolvers and automatics. The ratio of murdered women to murdered men in other industrialized countries is staggering; in no small part to the fact that a man with his bare hands is typically quite capable and competent to kill a more petite woman. Hence, Japanese females should be placed on an endangered species list.

Let’s Gang Up on Other Countries

This disparity has another cause, and it is American street gang violence. As someone who lived next door to Oakland, California, for a decade and who dated women residing there, I can attest the other-worldly nature of inner-city mayhem.

The source of international murder misdistribution for men and women come in no small part from the fact that gang violence is a young man’s sport. The death rate for poor, urban men between ages 14 and 24 is off the charts, because the odds of them belonging to a street gang are very high.

“How high is high?” asks the astute reader. About 953% higher than some other countries.

There is precious little in the way of cross-national criminology vis-à-vis street gangs. Various criminologists have estimated gang participation rates in their backyards, and the U.S. government–recognizing that we have a very unique problem–has studied Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other places rife with thuggery. America has a much larger rate of young men joining gangs and engaging in open warfare.

Their willingness to do so is amplified by American gang culture, which on the surface appears to be infinitely more violent than in other advanced economies (I have yet to find any solid cross-national psychological research on gang mentality and suspect it simply does not exist). One study of a Los Angeles-based street gang concluded that 100% of its members were card carrying sociopaths (not giving a damn about other people), and a full 48% had some degree of psychopathy (openly anti-social).

The bottom line is that compared to other industrialized nations, American violence is twice amplified by the sheer number of punks roaming the streets, but also in their complete disregard for human life.

Whittling It Down

How does this figure into the fact that America has loads of guns and other countries don’t? If you have gun control tendencies, have a seat. It is the only protection I can offer.

America’s murder rate is higher than it should be, but when contrasted with other “high development index” (HDI) countries, America is in the top ten, but is basically tied with Latvia for fourth position. That several nations cluster together based on population density–the number of humans packed into every square kilometer–is a passing curiosity.

What is interesting then is how imprisoning America’s over-zealous gang members might impact these charts. Sadly, there is no good way to tell given the way the FBI requires the cause of homicides to be classified.

I once had a long chat with an Oakland detective, and we discussed murder tallying. “Guy, if I arrive on the scene and there is a body face down in an alley, with an execution-style bullet wound in the back of the head, and he is wearing Crips colors in Blood territory, but there is no witness … I have to record the cause as ‘unknown.’ If someone reports they heard people in the alley arguing, but are not sure what the argument was about, it gets classified as being caused by an ‘argument.’ I know both cases were gang murders, but they won’t be recorded as such.”

Culture, or a Lack Thereof

The key to understanding this mess is culture. America may be a melting pot, but we have enough micro cultures to keep things interesting. By and large, America is a peaceful place. Economist John Lott discovered that 54% of the counties in this country did not have a single murder in 2014. This agrees with my research showing that: The top 20 most deadly big cities have only 7% of the nation’s population but account for 21% of their homicides.

Gang culture in inner-cities remains the key but also is a key to understanding international incidents.

When I address an audience with ideologs from the anti-gun camp, they inevitably say something like “The United Kingdom banned guns, and they have almost no murders.” That’s when I toss up another chart and wait for the collective gasping to begin.

“This is true,” I begin as the slide appears on the screen. “But the U.K. has always had a lower homicide rate, even when the average subject could buy machine guns.” Gun control advocates hate this because not only does it make for an inconvenient reality check, but they really hate the idea that the British have ever been anything but disarmed.

People in the U.K. possess an entirely different cultural basis, and a healthy respect for not outlawing alcohol (if you want to incite senseless violence in the U.K., try taking a gin and tonic away from a Londoner, or scotch away from a Scotsman). The British have a different culture which leads them to different behaviors, largely less vitriolic than Yanks. Somalis have a different culture than Americans, which explains their failed-state status.

Were America to change its subcultures, turning them from worship of the gangster life to more peaceful M.O.s, we might well see American homicides drop to U.K. levels.

That would really cause members of the gun control industry to gasp.

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


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