Millennials and Gun Ownership

“Gun Culture 2.0” is predicated on increased ownership of guns by millenials, especially handgun ownership by young women. While there are some fun anecdotal evidence here  and there, I haven’t seen much reliable evidence until now. Politicsbythenumbers.org is run by a guy with a PoliSci Ph.D. from MIT and he recently posted an analysis of this exact topic. The results are not pretty for the 2.0 hypothesis: They’re rate of ownership is below the rate of GenX and well below Boomers and prior generations.

Although the author lets his personal beliefs slip in by referring to ownership as “gun exposure”, his analysis looks very straightforward and completely reliable.

He has also examined an issue that I wondered about: the differing ownership rates reported in different polls. By matching up the General Social Survey with two versions of Gallup polls he shows that the GSS shows a declining ownership rate sharply at odds with the Gallup polls. In instances like this I believe that the specialized poll tends to be more reliable, so I suspect that the Gallup poll is closer to the truth.

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Are gunowners handling guns more safely these days?

In response to a comment by I’ve plotted the fatalities from many accidental injuries over 1979-2010. While it is far too cluttered to reveal much, four things are clear. First, auto accidents, accidental poisonings and accidental falls are the source of most fatal injuries. Second, we’re doing a great job of reducing auto fatalities. Third, accidental falls are way up, and I don’t know why. Fourth, accidental poisonings is a huge crisis. In fact, it is the number one cause of death for those 25 to 64. I believe that most of this is due to opiate and heroin addiction, and I also believe that the public health response appears to be entirely inadequate.

FatalAccidentalInjuries

Removing the worst three, as well as difficult-to-intepret categories such as “other transportation” and “other pedestrian”, we see an increase in suffocation fatalities, but decreases fire, drownings, firearms and “struck by or against”. That lends credence to the view that better EMT services are partially responsible for the decline in firearm deaths.

FatalAccidentalInjuries2

Plotting the vertical axis in log10, we see that firearm fatalities have drifted down more quickly than others, in spite of a large increase in the number of firearms. That suggests that gunowners themselves are somewhat responsible for the decline, although it could be the case that EMT services have just become particularly apt at treating gunshot wounds.

FatalAccidentalInjuries3

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American Society of Criminology Meeting Paper: Lessons from the United Kingdom on Firearms Bans, Homicide, and Access

I was thinking of writing about the question of whether the nearly complete ban on handguns in the UK reduced the homicide rate. Gun Control 2.0 did a better job answering this than I could have.

Gun Culture 2.0

Although the British government imposed various gun control measures throughout the 20th century, the most dramatic moves followed two mass shootings. In1987, 27 year-old Michael Ryan dressed up as “Rambo” and carrying (among other weapons) an M1 Carbine and a Chinese version of the AK-47, shot to death 16 people (and himself) in and around Hungerford.

In response to this, the British Parliament passed the 1988 Firearms Act, which imposed a great number of restrictions, the most notable of which was a complete ban on self-loading center fire and pump action rifles.

In the U.K., handguns are illegal and a person needs to get a certificate — and prove they have a good reason — to own a rifle or shotgun. Anyone convicted of a crime cannot touch a gun for 5 years. There are 0.07 gun homicides per every 100,000 people. Photo from http://www.businessinsider.com/americas-gun-problem-explained-2013-4?op=1

(In the entry on “United Kingdom-History of Gun Laws since 1900” in the encyclopedia Guns in American Society, David Kopel notes that “Home Secretary Douglas Hurd later admitted that the government prepared the provisions of the 1988 Firearms Act long before Hungerford and had been waiting for the right moment to introduce…

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Do We Need Mandatory Safety Classes for Gun Owners?

I investigate the need for increased safety among gun owners. Earlier I posted about the dramatic decline in accidental fatalities among children under 15. Here I add the fatality rate for all ages.

Accident_Firearm_All_Ages

This shows the dramatic decline in all firearm-related fatalities. It appears that the decline has been steeper for all ages than for children under 15. That, however, is not correct. Plotting this on a log10 scale shows that the slope for the children’s fatalities is steeper than that for all ages. That means that the rate of decline has been even faster for children.

Accident_Firearm_All_Ages_Log_Scale

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Bloomberg columnist Paul M. Barrett

This guy is great! He wrote a very insightful column on the NRA blocking the president’s choice for surgeon general.

He makes four points.

1. It’s ludicrous I completely agree. The nominated surgeon general has impeccable credentials, and while he holds the “standard urban liberal views” on gun control, his office has only a marginal attachment to that issue.

2. The Democrats are very, very afraid Maybe. I’m more interested that the nominee’s “skepticism of civilian gun ownership is based on firsthand experience in hospital emergency rooms” leads him to favor “a so-called assault weapons ban and mandatory safety training.” The train of logic there isn’t clear to me.

3.The assault weapons ban continues to haunt the Democrats Here we learn that the nominee is an outspoken proponent of re-instituting the “assault weapon” ban. Mr. Barrett points out that attacking those guns in the 90’s didn’t work; has nothing to do with lowering the number of homicides with handguns, which are responsible for the vast majority of firearm-related homicides, and it distracts from proposals to prevent the mentally ill and felons from acquiring firearms. Those are all great points. Further, he points out that no one can feasibly confiscate those weapons, so there is no ban.

4. The public health model for guns isn’t as obvious as liberals assume Here Mr. Barrett makes points that I’d never thought about. For example: “[the public health model] fails to appreciate and respect that law-abiding gun owners, and there are many millions of them, do not see themselves as disease vectors”, and “Moreover, the public health model doesn’t capture the thousands of instances each year when gun owners use their weapons to protect themselves.” In fact, the public health model does not allow for any benefit at all. It is designed to battle a phenomena that is unambiguously bad, such as viruses and disease bacteria. The second amendment, our long cultural history of gun ownership, self-defense, hunting, sport shooting, and so on, are necessarily assigned a zero weight.

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Running Amok

Last September Mona Charen wrote a very perceptive article on the nature of mass shootings in United States.  She writes “The guns-blazing mass attack has become the American psychosis…In the 20th century, many parts of the third world saw a pathological startle reaction that led to wild, dissociative behaviors called variously ‘running amok,’ ‘Lapp panic’ or ‘latah.'” From what I can see, we are experiencing something not unlike the “running amok” phenomena found in Malaysia.

She also write “We have betrayed the mentally ill by drastically reducing the availability of treatment. America has roughly 5 percent of the psychiatric beds it had in the late 1950s.” That to me is an appalling tragedy whose social costs extend well beyond the mentally ill and their families. In that light the focus on “gun control” to solve our drastically inadequate mental health system is badly misguided.

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Guns | Gallup Historical Trends

The Guns | Gallup Historical Trends gets cited quite a bit, but not by those seeking to show that gun ownership is declining. For example, The Economist recently wrote

Surveys suggest that the proportion of American households that own guns has declined from about 50% in the early 1980s to about 35% now. (These figures are subject to sampling error: when men answer the phone they are more likely than women to say there is a gun in the house. But repeated surveys tell a consistent story.)

That statement is clearly not reflected in the Gallup Poll. The author should written that a survey (The General Social Survey) shows this. The Gallup survey, which asks about guns in the household, shows a different pattern. Below I modify the figure on the Gallup site to include households where guns are on the property (such as the garage) but not necessarily in the house itself. This does not show a downward trend at all: the average over the 1980’s is 44% and the average since 2000 is 42.5%. Since 2000 Gallup has also asked whether or not the respondent is the owner. The percent of gun owners hovers around 29% over that period with no clear trend.

galluppoll

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