• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Yo, Washington DC! Uphold the Second Amendment!

    [Edited 26 July 2008 -- Absolute % of murders were transposed. Now corrected. The corrected error actually strengthened my argument. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

    That, in effect, was what the Supreme Court said today when it ruled 5-4 that Washington D.C.'s sweeping gun ban was unconstitutional.

    Two points interested me:

    1. Chicago, IL was one of a few cities that have enacted gun bans similarly tough and filed amicus briefs on behalf of the defendant (Washington D.C.). Barack Obama comes from said city, and has made no qualms about his desire to limit gun ownership if he is president.

    2. The writer makes the statement

    City attorneys urged the high court to intervene [overturn appellate court ruling], warning, "The District of Columbia -- a densely populated urban locality where the violence caused by handguns is well-documented -- will be unable to enforce a law that its elected officials have sensibly concluded saves lives."

    There were 143 gun-related murders in Washington last year, compared with 135 in 1976, when the handgun ban was enacted."
    An astute commenter asked,

    What I want to know is what point is being made by saying this statistic?

    There were 143 gun-related murders in Washington last year, compared with 135 in 1976, when the handgun ban was enacted

    Okay, so they had roughly the same number of murders 32 years ago before the ban as they did with it last year. Of course lets leave out the part about population change, culture change, increased drug usage, higher poverety (sic). This statisic (sic) doesn't say anything for or against guns, it's just a pointless statistic.
    My sentiments at first also. However, after reading the comment, I wondered if his and my assumptions were true.

    I won't tackle every variable, but I think the crux of the statistic quoted is population and murders.

    Contrary to my belief, the population of Washington D.C. has actually decreased since the 1960s. In 1976, the population was 702,000 (according to these data). 188 total murders and of those, 135 gun-related murders (according to CNN). That's 1 gun-related murder per 5200 people. In 2006, D.C.'s population was about 581,530 and 169 total murders (143 gun-related last year). That's 1 per 4067 people.

    So, by banning guns in 1976, gun-related murders increased from 0.0192% of the population to 0.0246% -- an absolute risk increase of 0.0054%. A small increase in murders for banning guns? For denying people a constitutional right?

    Wait! Wait, you say. Total murders dropped. Isn't that a good thing? Possibly, except that 72% of murders in 1976 were gun-related and that rose to 85% last year.

    In between 1976 and last year, murder rates actually ballooned (to a high of 481 in 1991) and then fell to current levels all while the population steadily declined.

    My question is thus: If banning guns is so effective, why did gun-related murders rise during the succeeding 30 years? Why did the percentage of murders that were gun-related increase? Why did murders rise from 188 in 1976 to 481 in 1991 before falling to the current level? What happened in 1991 to reverse the trend?

    I think the Supreme Court made the right decision today. Now let's find out what D.C. really did to cut down on crime.


    G said...

    Excellent points. I agree entirely.

    (Hi, this is Gretchen - I found your blog on Facebook!)

    Sara said...

    While I'm not a gun enthusiast (though I am married to one), I am glad that the Supreme Court ruled as it did. In a day in age when the government does pretty much the opposite of what I would like, it's nice to finally feel like something that is important to me and mine is important to the government as well. A gold star in my book!

    P.S. Nice to see you posting again...I take it your mole days are over for a little bit? :)

    Triet said...

    Gretchen! Long time no see! I'm glad you could saunter over to my little corner of the blogosphere. We'll have to catch up via facebook.

    Sara, I've found myself becoming more of a "gun supporter" as I've gotten older. I never had a gun in my home growing up, nor did I go hunting. My shooting experience is limited to Boy Scouts.

    However, as I've learned more about the enlightenment philosophies that our country was founded upon, I've realized the importance such a right has on ensuring the stability and perpetuation of a free society.

    My wife is adamantly opposed to my views, but that is another post!

    As to my mole days ... yes, they are over until Monday! LOL.

    Triet said...

    Interestingly, the high murder rates, although peaking in 1991, stay above 400 until 1994, and in the high 300s through 1996. Something happened in the late 1990s that caused the precipitous decline back to pre-gun ban levels.

    According to Wikipedia, there were riots in 1991 (makes sense with all the crime), and "crime rates have since declined substantially as gentrification has spread across many parts of the city."

    For people like me who didn't know this, gentrification is essentially the transformation of an area from low income to higher income.

    Since crime was concentrated in certain low income areas (see this map), and then those areas became richer during the late 1990s, we see that taking guns from people didn't stop murders, but changing the wealth (and therefore probably type) of a person did.


    Anonymous said...

    I would imagine the murders in DC are in the most crime ridden areas.
    As we know most of the children that grow up in these areas the Fathers have flown the coup.
    If a poor woman with children have to live in these area's have been left defenseless. I believe that according to or Constitution law abiding citizens have the right to own a gun to defend there house and family. My family has owned guns for 2 generations and never even had to take one out.
    You could never say the same about the bad guys who in the past were the only people that had guns for 3 decades. The Supreme court just gave us law abiding citizens the right to defend ourselves.

    Anonymous said...

    Uh, Mr. Triet, no, your math is wrong. For someone who is going to be cutting on people some day and with all the studying you have done, perhaps some simple arithmetic could be valuable.

    1976, 702,000 people, 135 gun deaths = one per 5,200 or .0192% of the population killed by guns.

    2006, 581,430 people, 143 gun deaths = one per 4066 or .0246% of the population killed by guns, a per capita increase of over 20% since the gun ban went into effect (when comparing those two years). Really good law, eh?

    Triet said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Triet said...


    Thank you for pointing out the error. My math was correct, but in moving from my worksheet to writing my post, I transposed the numbers.

    As you pointed out, the correct interpretation actually strengthens my argument.

    Gun-related murders increased by 0.00535% over 30 years, or a 21.77% relative increase over the baseline (1976) numbers.