VIOLENCE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE HOME

corr. 2/18/99

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EFFECT OF GUN REGULATION IN WASHINGTON, DC

CRIMES IN SEATTLE & VANCOUVER

In November, 1988, the NEJM had a report on a "study" by Sloan, Kellermann, Reay, and a long list of other doctors at the U. of Washington Dept of Surgery.  The report was titled "Handgun regulations, crime, assaults, and homicide:  A tale of two cities." (well read, aren't they?)  The study consisted of examination of rates of various types of crimes in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia from 1980 through 1986.

They found that Seattle had about a 16 percent higher rate of aggravated assault (i.e., with weapon or injury), but that the rate of assault with guns was about 7 times higher. The homicide rate--adjusted for age and sex but not race, economic status, or differences in health care systems--was about 1.28 to 2.08 times higher in Seattle.  They reported that virtually all of the excess risk in Seattle was "explained by a 4.8-fold higher risk of being murdered with a handgun in Seattle.  We conclude that restricting access to handguns may reduce the rate of homicide in a community."

The doctors' reason for doing the study was that Canada essentially banned handgun carrying and handgun acquisition for self defense starting in 1978.  The doctors hoped to claim that these restrictions were the only significant differences between the two cities, and to attribute a lower level of crime in Canada to those restrictions.  But the homicide rate in Vancouver for the three years before the restrictions was lower (23 per year, av) than it was for the seven years covered by the study (29 per year, av).  And, the proportion of those homicides committed with handguns was virtually identical for those two periods (one in eight).  This would indicate that the handgun restrictions had no effect on homicide in Vancouver.

Note that the doctors did not account for differences in population race or income, in criminal justice systems, or in health care systems.  Homicide and gun victimization rates for non-hispanic whites are practically the same in Seattle and Vancouver.  Note, too, that they mention restricting access (in general, by all citizen, rather than criminals, etc.).  Finally, note that they use the obligatory "may" since the kind of study they did cannot establish whether one thing (like living under one set of laws) is the cause of violence or if the violence is the cause and the laws a result, or if both are caused by something altogether different).

The doctors tried to argue that the rate of handgun possession in Seattle was far higher than in Vancouver.  Their "proof" was a comparison of the number of concealed carry permits in Seattle vs. the number of registered handguns in Vancouver, plus a measure (for each of the cities) based on the frequencies of gun homicides and suicides in each city.  They would have to be stupid, ignorant or dishonest to claim either of these as true measures of gun prevalence.  Use of the second measure, invented by gun controller P. Cook, would naturally lead to an indication of correlation of gun prevalence with crime since it would actually be comparing crime rates with themselves.

What about the effectiveness of those Canadian handgun regulations?  Canada's crime rates were dropping for several years before the restrictions went into effect, dropped for two more years, then started rising for several years.  No instantaneous impact was seen.  Although the restrictions may not have been responsible for the rise that started two years later, they certainly did not stop crime rates from rising.


IMPACT OF GUN REGULATION IN WASHINGTON, DC

In December, 1991, the NEJM had a report on a simplistic study by Loftin, McDowall, Wiersema and Cottey.  They determined the average monthly rates of gun homicide and suicide in Washington, DC for the 8 years before 1976 adoption of a law that banned the purchase, sale, transfer, or possession of handguns by common citizens.  And they determined the average monthly rates for the next 12 years.  The "after" average was 25 percent lower for homicides by firearm and 23 percent lower for suicide by firearm.  They found no corresponding increases in homicide and suicide by means other than guns.

They concluded that "our data suggest that restrictions on access to guns in the District of Columbia prevented an average of 47 deaths each year after the law was implemented."  Unfortunately, they didn't make their comparisons in terms of per person rates and they didn't take into account what the homicide and suicide rates in the rest of the U.S. or neighboring states were doing over the same periods because of all sorts of reasons.  In other words, there is no reason to conclude that the homicide and suicide rates actually dropped as a result of the gun law.

If one examines the total homicide and suicide rates for the same periods using the researchers' numbers, one finds that the average homicide rate dropped 7 percent less in DC than in neighboring Maryland and Virginia and the suicide rate dropped 10 percent less in DC than in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.  Homicide rates from FBI data show a slightly better reduction for DC than for Maryland and Virginia.  The drops found by the researchers were a result of the fact that they counted gun homicides and suicides, and because the population of DC dropped dramatically (largely because of the violence levels there forced people to move out).

And, what about the long term effects of the restrictions in DC?  Immediately after the end of the study period, homicide rates rose dramatically for several years.  The average rate for '88-'92 was higher than the post-ban study period ('77-'87) by 23 percent more than it was for neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

Bookmark this document for DETAILED DATA AND ANALYSIS

re. SUICIDE IN SEATTLE & VANCOUVER

HAZARDS OF GUNS IN THE HOME

BLATANT ANTIGUN BIAS IN MEDICAL LITERATURE

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