That’s Not How Statistics Works

One complaint you will often see from gun rights people is that there are many countries that have banned guns and their crime rates are much higher than in the United States.  Often, Great Britain is used as an example.  According to the “statistics”, Great Britain has a violent crime rate of 2,034 per 100,000 people while the U.S. has a violent crime rate of 466 per 100,000 people.  Great Britain has banned all guns thus banning weapons doesn’t deter crime!  Point.  Set.  Match.

This is what happens when people who don’t understand statistics use statistics.  The problem here is that violent crime in the United States is measured much differently than it is in Great Britain.  The U.S. only counts four crimes as violent: murder/manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.  Our friends across the pond, on the other hand, also count all sexual crimes, all minor assaults like bar fights, and even threats against a person.  It’s no wonder Great Britain looks so violent.

The reality is that, since banning guns, Great Britain’s violent crime rate has plummeted (pdf).  One might want to assume that the banning of guns is related to the drop in violent crime.  One would be wrong.  Violent crime has been steadily dropping in almost every first world country for well over a decade.  There is absolutely no correlation between violent crime and guns.

The United States has, by far, the highest gun ownership rate in the world.  We are also 10th in the world in the number of gun deaths.  Many people would argue that, if guns were so dangerous, shouldn’t we be first?  Look at that list.  Almost every country above us has an active drug war going on.  Drug wars, by the way, that are being fought because of our horrific drug laws here in the United States.  You have to go down to 19th place, Switzerland, to find another country with an extremely stable government.  It should come as no surprise that Switzerland has the third highest gun ownership rate.

Outside of leisurely pursuits, guns can only be used for one purpose: to kill a human being.  And while it is true that murders and suicides will always happen, widespread ownership of guns makes it trivially easy to accomplish.