Gun Homicide: Comparing Apples And Apples, Part IV

On Friday, we talked about comparing the US murder rate to the rest of the world.

Monday, the subject was what’d happen if we excluded America’s top forty highest-crime cities from the average.

Yesterday, we talked about what’d happen if we left the Old South, with its centuries of relatively violent Scots-Irish heritage, out of the nation’s murder rate.

In every case, the results were big.

Now, let’s go bigger.

The Math:  Here’s what it comes down to.

If you take the US’s 319 million people and 12,000-odd homicides (about 8,000 of which involve guns), and subtract:

  • murders in the states of the Old South, the former Confederate and Border states (with population and murders from from Southern cities among “Top Fifty” cities’ overlapping murder rates removed, since they’re counted in the next bullet, and we wouldn’t want to deduct them twice)
  • murders in the fifty US cities with the highest murder rates

And what does that leave?

Peace And Tranquility:  Incredibly, of the roughly 12,000 murders in the US in 2014, around 8,700 took place in either the Top Fifty crime cities, or the former slave states.

That’s 71% of the homicides for the entire US.

In other words, just a little over a quarter of all murders in the US happen outside the Old South and the fifty cities  and the slightly over a third of the population, with the highest murder rates.

The homicide rate for rest of the US – including many of its largest cities, and all of its urban and suburban areas outside Dixie –  falls to…1.8 per 100,000.   That’s the same as Israel – and it’s tied for #163 in the world.  It’s about 20% lower than Norway’s murder rate.   It’s not a lot higher, statistically, than Belgium, Canada, or Finland.

It’s about the same as North Dakota’s was, before the oil boom. Or Vermont today.

Or, as a matter of fact, almost identical to that of…

…wait for it…

…no, wait for it…

Peaceful, placid, passive-aggressive Minnesota.  North Minneapolis included.

And firearm crimes are more like 1.1-1.2/100,000.  Not “vanishingly low”, but pretty low.   About the same a Croatia, Macedonia, or Israel.

So…What?:  One of the Second Amendment movement’s oldest, most successful aphorisms is “guns don’t kill people; people do”.

And people do evil, or stupid, things for as many reasons as there are people.

But there are some overarching patterns that drive violence in the US; a violence-prone urban culture, with its gangs and black-marketeering and deeply dysfunctional justice system, and a deep south with a tolerance for petty and major violence that far exceeds the rest of the country.

And with those controlled for, the level of violence in the US, by world standards, is to say the least, low.

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Gun Homicide: Comparing Apples And Apples, Part III

Friday, we noted that gun grabbers try their darnedest to keep discussions of murder rates to “western, industrialized” countries – because of course brown people in the third world only matter if you can get them to vote Democrat.

And yesterday, we discussed both the murder rate in America’s 50 cities with the highest murder rates, and how subtracting their population and murders from the US rates drops the US overall murder rate by over a quarter.

Still Smelling The Gunpowder:  But cities don’t have a monopoly on criminal pathologies.  But they share some reasons.

In the immediate wake of the 2008 elections, a wave of pundits and scholars, including the U of M’s Eric Ostermeier, noted a factoid; states that voted for John McCain had higher crime rates than states that voted for Obama.

In response, I pointed out a couple of things:

  • state by state comparisons were meaningless, since the real breaking point in crime numbers occurs when comparing urban, suburban and rural counties
  • If you left out the McCain states that were members of the Confederacy, McCain’s states had extremely low murder and violent crime rates.

Let’s look a little further.

Of Trash And Accent:  The states that became the Confederacy were most notably marked by the presence of slavery – and African-America still suffers from some of the aftereffects of slavery and post-slavery discrimination – but there was more to it than that.

The Old South brought with it some of the worst features of the post-feudal European society that it sprang from – including a fairly rigid class structure.  At the top were the aristocratic, largely British plantationers.  At the bottom, of course, were the slaves

Not far up from the slaves were the masses of what in Europe would have been called peasants; white, largely Scots-Irish people, mostly poor, many of whom came to the US under indentured conditions not much better than slavery.  They lived, until well after the Civil War, under a caste system that didn’t stress upward mobility, or any of the things – education, civil behavior and the like – that led to it.  That, combined with the Scots-Irish heritage of a level of tolerance for violence far above and beyond that of most European transplants, with honor killings, duels, violent family feuds and other shenanigans a part of the background until fairly recently, helped lead to an ambient level of violence far higher than the rest of what became the US, even before there was a US.

You want it spelled out in more detail?  See a sociologist specializing in southern Scots-Irish culture.

What it boils doen to is that even today, in the states that made up the Confederacy (I included the former “Border States” of Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia and Maryland, by the way – they weren’t in the Confederacy, but they kept slaves and had plantation systems, which is what led to the sociological pathologies in the first place), the roughly 113 million residents have an overall murder rate of 5.8 per 100,000.  By themselves, the states of the old Confederacy alone had a murder rate of 6.1/100/000.

The Math:  So let’s leave the population, and murder rate, of the Old South out of the picture.  With their population and murders dropped out of the population, but still including the population and murders of every city outside the Old South, all of the Detroits and Newarks and Oaklands, the US’s murder rate drops to 2.99 per 100,000.  That’s a drop of a little over a quarter.

It’s a murder rate comparable with that in Taiwan, or Nepal.

So what happens when we leave America’s two greatest concentrations of violent pathology out of the nation’s murder rate?

We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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Gun Homicide: Comparing Apples And Apples, Part II

Last Friday, we noted that to the US’s murder rate of 3.8 per 100,000 ranks 121st in the world overall.

Which, to “Gun Safety” advocates, is just wrong; they insist on constraining the comparison to only “western, industrialized” countries – as if the life of a human being in Honduras or South Africa is somehow worth less, or their murder is of less weight than someone from Highland Park.   And I noted that the reasons for the comparison are to make the US look as bad as possible, against small, socially-homogenous countries like Denmark and Norway and Japan.

But I noted that among larger, westernized nations with at least a passing notion of human rights and any kind of social diversity at all, the US still fares pretty well

But then, I thought – what if we factor out the parts of US society that have the major crime problems?  What happens then?

In The City:  First, I thought, we should take a look at America’s cities.

For whatever reason, cities have almost always had a disproportionate murder rate.

So why is that?

Well, that question is one that keeps scads of otherwise unemployable sociologists hard at work.   But it’s no secret that American cities are faced with three pathologies:

  • A “War on Drugs” that creates a lucrative black market in which someone with no education can make a stupendous income – provided he or she is willing to defend that income by all means necessary. The estimates of how many murders occur due to the “drug war” vary, but range as high as half.
  • An “urban culture” that glorifies violence.
  • Decades of social service agencies using the inner cities as “warehouses for the poor”, for bureaucratic and political reasons.  And while there’s little direct causal link between poverty and crime, long-term grinding poverty certainly provides fertile soil for growing crime.

Also, of the top 50 cities in terms of homicide rate – accounting for 11.3% of the population of the US – all but a very vanishing few are Democrat-controlled.  This isn’t so much intended to politicize the issue as to point out that single-party-dominated governments are always less effective at carrying out government’s valid jobs, like law enforcement.

But the fact is, some American cities have downright third-world murder rates:  Saint Louis tops the list in 2014, with almost 50 homicides per 100,000.  Detroit clocks in at 43.5.   We have 25 cities with murder rates above 10/100,000 – triple the national average.

In fact, if you take the ten US cities with the highest murder rates -Saint Louis, DetroitNew Orleans, Baltmore, Newark, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Atlanta, Cincinnati – they add up to about 1% of the entire population of the US – but they account for a solid 10% of all homicides in America.

But let’s go bigger than that.

The fifty American cities with the highest murder rates – from Saint Louis down to Charlotte, NC (5.5/100,000) together accounted for approximately 4.426 murders in 2015 – about 3,000 of them likely with firearms.

The Math:  So when you take the top fifty US cities in terms of murder rate, with their 34,7521.052 people (11.3% of the population), and their approximately 4,530 homicides from the US’s population and total number of murders, and subtract them from the rest of the United states, you get about 284 million people, and a murder rate of just under 2.68 per 100.000 people.  That’s roughly equal to the murder rate in Hungary – it ranks the US at #145 worldwide.

It also means that about 11% of the entire US population commits about 38% of the murders.

But the problems of American urban society aren’t the only ones driving up the United States’ homicide rate.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a problem that dates back to before there were cities, or a United States for that matter.

  • Last Friday: Intro
  • Today:  The effect urban crime has on America’s murder rate.
  • Tomorrow:  We’ll look at the murder rate in the Deep South.
  • Wednesday:  We’ll see what the US’ murder rate would be without its biggest social pathologies.

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Gun Homicide: Comparing Apples And Apples, Part I

When you get into a discussion with “Gun Safety” advocates, they usually start by knowingly, solemnly intoning that the US has some variant of “the highest gun murder rate in the developed world”.

In response to which I always ask two questions:

  • Why just “western, developed countries?”:  The United States’ murder rate is actually in the bottom 2/3 of the world; with 3.8 murders overall per 100,099 people, we rank #121 in terms of murders overall.   And isn’t murder, murder?  Isn’t the life of a Honduran, or a Venezuelan, or an Indian or Russian, worth exactly the life of an American?   Isn’t their murder just as grave an offense?
  • Why just “firearms” murders?:  In the immortal words of Archie Bunker:

    Are we to believe that murders committed with guns are more heinous than other murders? That murders with knives, clubs, gasoline or bare hands are somehow of less weight than those using firearms? That’s utterly illogical.

The stated goal of comparing only “western, industrialized” countries, we’re told, would be to “compare apples to apples”.  The real goal is to try to cherrypick results.  Of course the US will have a higher murder rate than Denmark, Sweden or Belgium – all of them are small, socially and culturally homogenous countries.   And of course we’ll have a higher murder rate than, say, Japan – a larger nation, but with a socially homogenous population (that, incidentally, tolerates police powers that’d make the ACLU yak up it’s collective skull).

So the correct response is to really compare apples to apples:  large, socially-diverse societies with at least a pretense of individual rights (and it may be a thin pretense indeed).

There, the US and it’s 3.8/100,000 murder rate (about 2/3 of which are firearm murders) looks pretty good compared to other large, industralized, socially and culturally heterogenous nations and the frictions and stresses they lend to the situation:

  • Argentina: 5.5
  • Brazil: 25.2
  • Russia: 9.0
  • South Africa: 31.0
  • India:  3.5 (and virtually no civilian gun ownership)

But I got to thinking:  What if we took the next step, and accounted for the effect of social and cultural diversity and history in the US murder rate?

What effect would that have?

We’ll tackle that next week:

  • Monday:  We’ll look at the effect urban crime has on America’s murder rate.
  • Tuesday:  We’ll look at the murder rate in the Deep South.
  • Wednesday:  We’ll see what the US’ murder rate would be without its biggest social pathologies.