Race, violence, and prejudice

Clayton Cramer fielded a question from a journalist regarding the perceived increase in police shootings of armed black men.

I’ll send over a few questions if that okay with you… I really want to capture the increased incident of police and armed black men. Activist seem to believe there is racism at the core of these incidents.1. What was your response to the shooting of Jemel Roberson two days ago?

I confess that I missed this. The police officer clearly reacted too quickly and wrongly.

2. Do you believe racism is something that is a factor in these shootings?

I think it is important to distinguish between racism and prejudice. A racist would assume that a different race is intrinsically different or inferior, and often that is expressed as hatred. Many people have prejudices based on race, sex, or other identities that may not be associated with hate. There are times that those prejudices may have a rational basis when applied to unknown members of that group. Let me give you an example.

This is a pretty important point. In another discussion elsewhere with someone else, I felt the need to distinguish between “racial” distinctions and “racist” distinctions. Allocating more funds to treat sickle cell trait in largely black areas than elsewhere is a racial distinction, but not a racist one.

Many years ago, I was walking home from college on a pedestrian path that was pretty isolated. There was a 10 foot high concrete wall on one side, and a chain link fence with a stream and forest on the other. Ahead of me about 50 yards was a young woman also walking away from campus. There was no one else around. Because I was a bit taller than her, I was slowly gaining on her as I walked this path. After a couple minutes, I realized that she had increased her pace; soon, she was almost running.

My first reaction was, “Why is she afraid of me? I am a nice person; I will not hurt her. Is it just because I’m a man?” The answer, I am sure, was Yes. Nasty prejudice. But a rational prejudice. She did not know me. Effectively all rapists are men. That means that men are 2x as likely to be rapists as people in general: unknown men are a disproportionate risk. Few men are rapists; there were 124,000 rapes in America in 2015 (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/tables/table-1) in a nation of 160 million men, and because rapists are usually serial offenders, there are probably far less than 124,000 men who are rapists.

What if she assumes the worst about a man, and he is harmless (like me)? She gets a bit of a cardio workout from trying to get away. What if she assumes a man is harmless and he is a rapist? The consequences may be quite severe. So her reaction qualifies as a rational reaction to her prejudice.

Regulate immigrants like guns?

I’ve seen articles describing what it would be like if we regulated cars the way we regulate guns. (Hint: car drivers would riot.)

I’ve seen articles describing what it would be like if we regulated guns the way we regulate cars. (Hint: gun control activists would have strokes.)

Now, a piece on LifeZette describing what it would look like if the Left treated immigrants the way they do guns.

Any horrific shooting that makes national news brings a predictable cacophony of calls from progressives for gun control. But what if the Left applied that logic to immigration?

We’d be hearing a lot more demands for “immigrant control” and “common-sense immigration restrictions.”


There would be calls for banning immigration. Banning all immigration into the United States in response to crimes committed by some illegal immigrants would, indeed, be radical. And irrational. No serious person has suggested that sealing the border and allowing no more immigrants ever again would be a reasonable approach to immigrant crime.

Yet, the most radical of gun control advocates demand that approach for guns. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) called for reinstatement of a ban on so-called assault weapons, along with aggressive measures to remove existing weapons.


Liberals would highlight sensational crimes by immigrants. The culprit is clear anytime someone shoots up a school or a workplace, according to liberals — guns. Progressives are far more circumspect whenever an illegal immigrant commits a high-profile crime, such as the recent murder of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts.

The blame in those cases, liberals preach, rests with the individual murderers; don’t dare suggest that all immigrants or immigration policy bear responsibility.


There would be calls to close the immigration background check loophole. Liberals for years have demanded that Congress close the “gun show loophole.” This is shorthand for people being able to buy firearms at a gun show without having to undergo a criminal background check.

But it is not really a gun show loophole at all. The “loophole” has to do with people who sell their personal guns. Federally licensed firearms dealers must run the background check whether the sales takes place in a store or at a show.

The federal background check requirement does not apply to people who do not have firearms businesses but want to sell from a personal collection. (Some states do require background checks even for those people).


Liberals issue no similar calls to close the immigration background check loophole, however. The United States admits roughly 1 million people legally each year, both through permanent immigration and on nonimmigration visas, such as those allowing foreigners to work or study in America. All of those foreigners undergo some type of background check.

But foreigners who come across the border illegally, by definition, evade all background checks. In fiscal year 2017, border and customs agents apprehended 415,191 illegal immigrants. Experts estimate that for every foreigner apprehended, one makes it through to the interior of the country.


Everybody’s Lying About the Link Between Gun Ownership and Homicide

Source: Everybody’s Lying About the Link Between Gun Ownership and Homicide

There is no clear correlation whatsoever between gun ownership rate and gun homicide rate. Not within the USA. Not regionally. Not internationally. Not among peaceful societies. Not among violent ones. Gun ownership doesn’t make us safer. It doesn’t make us less safe. The correlation simply isn’t there. It is blatantly not-there. It is so tremendously not-there that the “not-there-ness” of it alone should be a huge news story.

And anyone with access to the internet and a basic knowledge of Microsoft Excel can check for themselves. Here’s how you do it.

First, go to the Wikipedia page on firearm death rates in the United States. If you don’t like referencing Wikipedia, then instead go to this study from the journal Injury Prevention, which was widely sourced by media on both the left and right after it came out, based on a survey of 4000 respondents. Then go to this table published by the FBI, detailing overall homicide rates, as well as gun homicide rates, by state. Copy and paste the data into Excel, and plot one versus the other on a scatter diagram. Alternately, do the whole thing on the back of a napkin. It’s not hard. Here’s what you get:

This looks less like data and more like someone shot a piece of graph paper with #8 birdshot.

If the data were correlated, we should be able to develop a best fit relationship to some mathematical trend function, and calculate an “R^2 Value,” which is a mathematical way of describing how well a trendline predicts a set of data. R^2 Values vary between 0 and 1, with 1 being a perfect fit to the data, and 0 being no fit. The R^2 Value for the linear trendline on this plot is 0.0031. Total garbage. No other function fits it either.

I embellished a little with the plot, coloring the data points to correspond with whether a state is “red,” “blue,” or “swing,” according to the Romney-Obama era in which political demarcations were a little more even and a little more sensical. That should give the reader a vague sense of what the gun laws in each state are like. As you can see, there is not only no correlation whatsoever with gun ownership rate, there’s also no correlation whatsoever with state level politics.

But hey, we are a relatively unique situation on the planet, given our high ownership rates and high number of guns owned per capita, so surely there’s some supporting data linking gun ownership with gun homicide elsewhere, right?

So off we go to Wikipedia again, to their page listing countries by firearm related death rates. If Wikipedia gives you the willies, you’re going to have a harder time compiling this table on your own, because every line in it is linked to a different source. Many of them, however, come from http://www.gunpolicy.org. Their research is supported by UNSCAR, the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation, so it is probably pretty reasonable data. They unfortunately do not have gun ownership rates, but do have “guns owned per 100 inhabitants,” which is a similar set we can compare against. And we drop that into Excel, or use the back of our napkin again, and now we are surely going to see how gun ownership drives gun homicide.

Well that’s disappointing.

Remember we are looking for an R^2 value close to 1, or hopefully at least up around 0.7. The value on this one is 0.0107. Garbage.


So let’s briefly recap. Gun Murder Rate is not correlated with firearm ownership rate in the United States, on a state by state basis. Firearm Homicide Rate is not correlated with guns per capita globally. It’s not correlated with guns per capita among peaceful countries, nor among violent countries, nor among European countries. So what in the heck is going on in the media, where we are constantly berated with signaling indicating that “more guns = more murder?”

One: They’re sneaking suicide in with the data, and then obfuscating that inclusion with rhetoric.
This is the biggest trick I see in the media, and very few people seem to pick up on it. Suicide, numerically speaking, is around twice the problem homicide is, both in overall rate and in rate by gun. Two thirds of gun deaths are suicides in the USA. And suicide rates are correlated with gun ownership rates in the USA, because suicide is much easier, and much more final, when done with a gun. If you’re going to kill yourself anyway, and you happen to have a gun in the house, then you choose that method out of convenience. Beyond that, there’s some correlation between overall suicide and gun ownership, owing to the fact that a failed suicide doesn’t show up as a suicide in the numbers, and suicides with guns rarely fail.


Two: They’re cooking the homicide data.
The most comprehensive example of this is probably this study from the American Journal of Public Health. It’s widely cited, and was very comprehensive in its analytical approach, and was built by people I admire and whom I admit are smarter than me. But to understand how they ended up with their conclusions, and whether those conclusions actually mean what the pundits say they mean, we have to look at what they actually did and what they actually concluded.

First off, they didn’t use actual gun ownership rates. They used fractional suicide-by-gun rates as a proxy for gun ownership. This is apparently a very common technique by gun policy researchers, but the results of that analysis ended up being very different from the ownership data in the Injury Prevention journal in my first graph of the article. The AJPH study had Hawaii at 25.8% gun ownership rate, compared to 45% in IP, and had Mississippi at 76.8% gun ownership rate, compared to 42.8% in IP. Could it be that suicidal people in Hawaii prefer different suicide methods than in Mississippi, and that might impact their proxy? I don’t know, but it would seem to me that the very use of a proxy at all puts the study on a very sketchy foundation. If we can’t know the ownership rate directly, then how can we check that the ratio of gun suicides properly maps over to the ownership rate? Further, the fact that the rates are so different in the two studies makes me curious about the sample size and sampling methods of the IP study. We can be absolutely certain that at least one of these studies, if not both of them, are wrong on the ownership rate data set. We know this purely because the data sets differ. They can’t both be right. They might both be wrong.


Series roundup:

In the second article, we unpack “gun death” statistics and look carefully at suicide.

In the third article, we debunk the “gun homicide epidemic” myth.

In the fourth article, we expand upon why there is no link between gun ownership and gun homicide rate, and why gun buybacks and other gun ownership reduction strategies cannot work.

In the fifth article, we discuss why everyone should basically just ignore school shootings.

The sixth article presents a solution free of culture wars, and the finale isn’t about guns at all.

“Commonsense” Gun Control Laws

“Commonsense” Gun Control Laws

(Lifted from Clayton Cramer)

Supporters of restrictive gun control and “assault weapon” bans insist they only want “commonsense” gun control laws.  But many of these proposals have been tried and found wanting.

1.      1. Mandatory background checks for every gun transfer.  But 13 states have adopted such laws since 1960 when FBI murder statistics became sufficiently reliable to test the effects of these laws on murder rates: California,[1]Hawaii,[2]Illinois,[3]Massachusetts,[4]New Jersey,[5]and Rhode Island.[6]  A few more states have for a few years required such a check for private party transfers of handguns (with a few exceptions such as intrafamily transfers): Maryland,[7]Iowa,[8]Michigan,[9]Nebraska,[10] New York,[11]North Carolina,[12] and Pennsylvania.[13]  Hawaii, North Carolina, and Michigan, passed these laws so recently that we do not have enough data to measure results yet.

first full year
murder rate avg. (T-5)
murder rate avg. (T+5)
long guns

Yes, of eight states, three had declines in murder rates, but only two were statistically significant.  Five had increases.  If these laws are really effective, why are the results all over the map?  You would expect at least some consistent direction, unless they really make no difference.  Why?  The federal government has studied how criminally misused guns end up in criminal hands.
As you can see, a strong majority of these guns were obtained by committing felonies: strawman purchases, burglaries, unlicensed gun making,[14]  So why will creating another felony make any difference?
2.      2.  “Requiring a license to own a gun, like a driver’s license.  No one objects to that.”  With a driver’s license issued by any state, I can drive a car in any other state, and the car does not matter.  I can drive a car capable of exceeding the speed limit by a hundred miles per hour (a dangerous criminal offense) or a car with a high capacity gas tank (imagine the hazard of a car with a 80 gallon gas tank in a car crash spilling an explosive fluid around the accident).  I can also fly to any state, buy a car there, and drive it home.  Imagine doing that with a gun license!

3.       3. “Require gun owners to carry insurance to pay for damages caused by their guns.”  Home owners insurance usually covers non-criminal liability and even negligent acts now.[15]  If criminals buy firearms insurance, it won’t cover their criminal actions.

44. “But we require driver’s to have car insurance now.”  And are there uninsured drivers out there?  That’s why police officers ask to see your proof of insurance when they pull you over, and most driver’s carry uninsured motorist coverage.

5.     5.  “Gun owners should be liable for misuse of stolen guns.”  Why?  Are other victims of crimes liable for subsequent criminal use of their property?  If someone steals your chainsaw and re-enacts “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” should the burglary victim be held liable?

6.       6. “Weapons of war are too dangerous because of mass murders.”  USA Today gathered data on mass murders 2006-2010.  Only about 3/4 involved guns (the rest were “stabbing,”, “blunt force,” “Smoke inhalation/burns.” But even in gun mass murders: 72.9% handguns, 18.5% rifles (8.6% semiautomatic rifles); 8.6% shotguns.  And these were the guns carried, not necessarily used by the killer. )   It would make far more sense to ban handguns than semiautomatic rifles, and more sense to ban knives “blunt objects,” and flammable liquids, if the goal is to reduce mass murders.

7.       7. “You say the Second Amendment protects your ‘right’ to own these guns because they might be needed against a tyrannical government.  Do you really think you can defeat the might of the U.S. government?”  You call them “weapons of war” and say that they would therefore not be useful for that?  Which is it.?

8.       8. “Assault weapons are easily converted to full auto.”  But federal law has this covered.

The term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person. [16]

The courts have ruled that readily convertible means “about an 8-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop.”[17]

9.      9.  “Think of the children killed each year by guns in accidents.”  How many?  In the years 1999-2016, there were 1,163 accidental firearms deaths of children 0-14 or 68 per year.[18]  Each is a tragedy, but 7,181 were killed in vehicle accidents: 422 per year.[19]  Drowning in bathtubs: 1,461, or 85 per year.[20]  Your focus is wrong.

110.   “Why are you leaving out older children?”  The Centers for Disease Control has age categories to 14, and 15-19.  That includes adults and some gang members.  Those are not children in the usual sense of the word.

111.   “Why not ban ‘assault weapons’ and high capacity magazines?  Who needs them?”  Why ban them?  They are seldom criminally misused.  When Congress passed the 1994 ban on new manufacture, the Clinton Administration directed the National Institute of Justice to examine the effects of the new law.  They found a 6.7% reduction in murder rates in the 15 states where the federal ban could have made a difference.  But Roth and Koper also admitted that this reduction was not statistically significant.  Because assault weapons had been used in a tiny percentage of murders before the ban, “it is highly improbable that the assault weapons ban produced an effect this large….”[21]  What about the effects of rapid fire and large capacity magazines?  “The ban did not produce declines in the average number of victims per incident of gun murder or gun murder victims with multiple wounds.”  What about “protecting police officers,” the excuse offered repeatedly for the ban?  There was a decline in assault weapons used to murder police officers, but Roth and Koper also admitted that “such incidents are sufficiently rare” that it impossible to determine whether the law reduced total gun murders of police officers.[22]

[1]Cal. Penal Code §Penal Code §§ 12070 described in SB 950 p. 8, ftp://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/01-02/bill/sen/sb_0901-0950/sb_950_cfa_20010709_110602_asm_comm.html, last accessed February 15, 2016.
[2]Hawaii Rev. Stats. § 134-2 (2012).
[3]430 Ill. Comp. Stats. 65/1 (2013).
[4]Mass. Acts ch. 737 (1968).
[5]N.J. Code Crim. Jus. § 58-3 (2012).
[6]R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35, 11-47-35.2 (2009).
[7]Md. An. Code § 5-124 (2003); see Md. An. Code § 5-101(p) (2003) for the definition of “regulated firearms”; it includes handguns and a list of so-called “assault weapons.”
[8]Iowa Code § 724.16 (2012).
[9]Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.422 (2011).
[10]Neb. Rev. Stats. § 69-2403 (2010).
[11]N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.00, 265.20, 270.00, 400.00, 401.00, 405.00 (2012).
[12]N.C. Gen. Stats., Art. 52A, § 14-402 (2011).
[13] Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111 (2009).
[14] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Following the Gun, Enforcing Federal laws Against Firearms Traffickers, June 2000, p. 11, http://www.nfaoa.org/documents/ATF-%20Following%20the%20Gun,%20Enforcing%20Federal%20Laws%20Against%20Firearms%20Traffickers.pdf,
[15] Mocsary, George A., Insuring Against Guns? (May 2014). 46 Connecticut Law Review 1209. 1223 (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2511291.
[16]28 USC 5845(b).
[17] U.S. v. Smith, 477 F.2d 399, 400 (8th Cir. 1973).
[18]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December 2017. Data are from the Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2V, 2017, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html on Mar 27, 2018 11:38:51 AM
[19]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December 2017. Data are from the Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2V, 2017, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html on Mar 27, 2018 11:51:29 AM
[20]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December 2017. Data are from the Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2V, 2017, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html on Mar 27, 2018 11:57:28 AM
[21]Jeffrey A. Roth and Christopher S. Koper, “Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994-96,” NCJ 173405, (Washington: National Institute of Justice, 1999), 1.  You can find this report at http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/173405.pdf. 8-9.
[22]Roth and Koper, 9.


Bookworm: A history professor wrongly claims the Founding Fathers loved gun control


….According to Saul Cornell, the Founders:

  • Required weapons registration
  • Prohibited public carry
  • Limited stand-your-ground laws to the home
  • Mandated safe storage
  • Required loyalty oaths to protect weapons

As Cornell sums up his own conclusions, heavy-duty gun regulation was the name of the game for the Founders ….



This sounded wrong to me, since I’ve read verified quotations from the Founders that see individual arms’ possession as an important bulwark against tyranny. If you give the nascent tyrant preemptive control over arms, you’ve vitiated that principle — and encouraged the road to tyranny.

Still, I haven’t done any in-depths studies about the Revolutionary Period so I could be wrong. I therefore turned to my friend and fellow blogger, who knows more about the Revolutionary Period than any person I’ve ever met. For Professor Cornell, as for most academics, Revolutionary history is a job. For Wolf Howling, it’s an overriding passion. I’d trust him on the subject before I’d trust anyone else. Here’s what he wrote me when I put Cornell’s article before him:

“Gun control” is a euphemism for more power and control | Questions and Observations

Source: “Gun control” is a euphemism for more power and control | Questions and Observations

You’ve heard all the arguments and how they’re structured when it comes to gun banning. The left would like to convince you that if you just let them get rid of guns (knowing full well the only people that would be deprived of guns are the law abiding) that this “gun violence problem” would go away. That apparently we’ll all live in peace and harmony because, well, guns will be gone. It is guns, you see, which spark all of this violence. Without them, why we wouldn’t harm a fly.

It reminds me of the same reasoning that the Brits went though to justify their incredibly strict gun laws. And that further reminded me of an article I tucked away that is from 2005 when knives suddenly were the problem. Again, you’ll recognize the argument (think “assault” knives). This is now a movement in the UK – banning knives, because … well, that gun ban thing just didn’t change much, did it?


The point, of course, is the gun ban isn’t really about guns. It’s about power and control as the people in the UK are now finding out as the state tries to take their knives away. It’s all about reducing citizens to docile little proles after they take way any means of protection and defense. When the only means of “protection” belongs to the state.

And this BBC article is cited…

Doctors’ kitchen knives ban call

A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing.

A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase – and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.

They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen.

None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.

The researchers said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault – but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs.

In contrast, a pointed long blade pierces the body like “cutting into a ripe melon”.

The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of 16-year-olds have been shown to carry weapons, primarily knives.

The study found links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established.

French laws in the 17th century decreed that the tips of table and street knives be ground smooth.

A century later, forks and blunt-ended table knives were introduced in the UK in an effort to reduce injuries during arguments in public eating houses.

The researchers say legislation to ban the sale of long pointed knives would be a key step in the fight against violent crime.

“The Home Office is looking for ways to reduce knife crime.

“We suggest that banning the sale of long pointed knives is a sensible and practical measure that would have this effect.”

Government response

Home Office spokesperson said there were already extensive restrictions in place to control the sale and possession of knives.

“The law already prohibits the possession of offensive weapons in a public place, and the possession of knives in public without good reason or lawful authority, with the exception of a folding pocket knife with a blade not exceeding three inches.

“Offensive weapons are defined as any weapon designed or adapted to cause injury, or intended by the person possessing them to do so.

“An individual has to demonstrate that he had good reason to possess a knife, for example for fishing, other sporting purposes or as part of his profession (e.g. a chef) in a public place.

“The manufacture, sale and importation of 17 bladed, pointed and other offensive weapons have been banned, in addition to flick knives and gravity knives.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “ACPO supports any move to reduce the number of knife related incidents, however, it is important to consider the practicalities of enforcing such changes.”