Monday, February 24, 2014

Graphs Correlating Gun Sales To Gun Violence

(UPDATED: See below)

Take a look at the graphs below.  See anything interesting?

The FBI recently concluded a study that showed a dramatic and steady increase in the number of active shooter incidents.  My understanding is that what they are defining as "active shooter" incidents are high-profile mass shootings.  Not only did the number of these shootings increase, but the number of killed AND injured increased.  While the number of people killed and injured by guns nationwide has slowly increased in the same period, since 2000, it is telling that the greatest increase has been in these mass shootings.

FBI: Active shooter events by year (source)

FBI: Numbers of individuals injured or killed in active shooter incidents (source)
Number of guns to the U.S. population (source)
Mother Jones magazine recently also did a similar analysis of the alarming increase in mass shootings and graphed the results in a similar manner, and had a graph of the shootings, as well as a graph comparing the number of guns to overall U.S. population (to the right).

The gun lobby likes to say that, with more guns in more places, the number of shootings will decrease, since, as they see it in their simple-minded way, a flood of guns on our streets can only lead to the "bad guys" being afraid and not committing crimes, and criminal shootings should decrease.  So I wanted to see for myself.

As the Mother Jones graph at right shows, guns certainly have proliferated, such that there are now more guns in American civilian hands than there are people in the United States.  By the gun lobby, this should make us the safest nation on Earth.  Sadly, we have more civilian shootings than any other advanced nation (and most of the least advanced nations, to boot). recently had an article which showed some very telling graphs.  It broke down the gun sales by type, and you can see a drastic increase in sales, with data from the ATFE, which seems to mirror the number of active shooter incidents:

ATFE: Gun sales by year and type (source)
By far the greatest increase has been in pistols, but rifles (most likely assault rifles) would come in second.  These sales are also mirrored by the number of increasing background checks by year, using data collected by the FBI:

FBI: Gun background checks by year (source)
Finding data on the number of conceal carry permits that are issues over the same period is proving to be harder, as I haven't found a good source to show this.  But I suspect that most areas, particularly conservative rural areas, would show increases similar to that of these Michigan counties, with data from the Michigan State Police:

Increasing issuance of conceal carry permits in Michigan counties (source)

As I've posted about before, the number of households that own guns is decreasing steadily year after year, which means that the great proliferation of firearms in this country are going to people who are already gun owners.  The gun lobbies and the gun manufacturers who bankroll them are pushing these owners hard to buy more, stoking fears.  But, as these graphs seem to implicate, they only have themselves to fear.

See anything similar between these graphs?  They all have very similar slopes.  That alone doesn't prove anything, and correlation doesn't prove causation, but it certainly is telling to me that something is going on here.  At the very least it demonstrates that increasing gun sales and conceal carry licenses has done nothing to stop the plague of gun violence in America, despite the simplistic, "buy-more-guns" propaganda of the gun lobby.  At worst, it demonstrates that the flood of guns in American hands may have a relationship with the number of mass shootings in America.  Such a correlation seems obvious to me, since it allows weak-minded and violent individuals to more easily get their hands on high-powered killing machines.  But then statistics never sway the gun guys, or the gun lobbies who feed them false information.

ADDENDUM (2/25/14):  On a related note, a recent (2013) study (by Fleegler, et al) showed a very positive and linear relationship between the rate of gun ownership in a state and the number of firearm deaths in that state, as well as a linear relationship between the laxity of gun laws in a state and the number of firearm deaths in that state.  Here is a telling graph from that study:
Notice that states that have recently been in the news for having new and strict gun regulation (NY, CT, CA, MA) are all very low for gun-related deaths, while states that are extremely lax (AZ, AK, LA) are at the top of the list for firearm-related deaths.  It's no coincidence.

ADDENDUM (7/17/14):  A blog post at Daily Kos has shown a pretty clear comparison and correlation between the number of guns per capita per nation and the number of gun deaths: