Friday, January 30, 2015

Guest Post: US Murder Rate

I have friends who are Brits, and have a number of erroneous ideas about the USA in guns and violence.  They once tried to tell me we have the highest murder rate in the world.  I decided to try to nicely present them with some important facts about guns and murder rates, which you can see below.  Feel free to use it if you know others who are running on false information.

The current UN figure for the USA is 4.7 murders per 100K people, with Honduras at #1 with 90.7.  (Wow, that's really scary, I would not want to live there even if you gave me my own arsenal and the right to carry it around.)  USA comes out about 69th down the list of countries.

But here's what is really of interest.  The distribution of murder rates across the country is pretty much a bimodal plot, with a bunch of cities holding up one end.

New Orleans – 53.2 per 100,000
St. Louis – 35.5 per 100,000
Baltimore – 34.9 per 100,000
Newark - 34.4 per 100,000
Oakland – 31,8 per 100,000
Stockton – 23.7 per 100,000
Kansas City – 22.6 per 100,000
Philadelphia – 21.5 per 100,000
Cleveland – 21.3 per 100,000
Memphis – 20.2 per 100,000
Atlanta – 19.0 per 100,000
Chicago – 18.5 per 100,000

The big cities drag the national average way up from what you see in the rest of the nation.  Here are some other, small cities that don't have major ghettoes or gangs.

Austin – 3.7
Seattle – 3.7
San Diego – 3.5
El Paso – 3.4
Portland – 3.3
Santa Ana – 3.3
Mesa – 3.1
Henderson – 1.5
Lincoln – 1.1
Plano – 0.4

Plano, TX, is a nice small town with an extremely high rate of both gun ownership and carry permits, what some have called "gun nut Central". Yet that is as safe a place as there is to live in this country, or pretty much most of the whole world.

Violence seems to be much more a function of social disorders, dysfunctionality, and perhaps some other factors we can't analyze right now.  Since a large fraction of the countries of the 68 with higher murder rates than the US have very strong gun laws, it's not just about gun availability.  And most of the murders committed in the high murder
rate areas of the US are committed with guns that are illegal, often carried by people who have criminal records already, it sure isn't about legal guns owned by good citizens.

This is not to tell you there are no problems at all in this country about violence and guns outside the ghettoes and gangs, but real understanding of details gives all of us a lot better picture than the oversimplified use of simple sound bites and poorly used statistics.


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