Guns and Numbers: Nevada Rankings

Gun violence by stateBefore we get too comfortable with the idea that Nevada’s a safe place to live because we have lots and loads of guns, there are some numbers to consider.  {pdf}

There are some rankings in which we don’t look too bad.  For example, Nevada ranks 41st in the number of law enforcement personnel killed by firearms between 2002-2011; 2 or 0.08 per 100K population.  Granted that is two too many, but our ranking is certainly acceptable.

There are other rankings that aren’t so comforting.

Nevada ranked 25th in firearm homicides in 2010; 90 in 2010 or 3.3/100K population.  The ranking could be considered middling, but it’s still higher than should be considered acceptable.  Moreover, Nevada ranks 6th nationally in the number of firearm homicides among women from 2001 to 2010  with 214 or a 1.77/100k rate.

Nevada ranks 17th nationally in the number of aggravated assaults with a firearm in 2011.  1,301 or 53.30 per 100K population.  Again, this is a middle ranking, and we might speculate that it indicates a state with an essentially urban population, albeit with a relative small total population?

Nevada also ranks 17th in firearm deaths among children aged 0-17 between 2001 and 2010; 139 or 2.26/100k population.  A middle ranking among the 50 states doesn’t really cover this particular subtopic.  139 children lost in a ten year period means a statistical 13.9 lost each year.  Of course, these aren’t statistics — they were children with parents…

Now the rankings become more disturbing.  Nevada ranks 11th in the nation in the ATF “time to crime” statistics, or how short a time there is between the purchase of a firearm and its use in some criminal activity.   The assumption in their statistical model is that the shorter the time between the acquisition of a firearm and the time it is used in a crime suggests that there is gun trafficking going on. Or, as the ATF phrases it:

“Time-to-crime is the period of time (measured in days) between a firearm’s retail sale and law enforcement’s recovery of the firearm in connection with a crime. A short time-to-crime rate usually means the firearm will be easier to trace, and when several short time-to-crime traces involve the same individual/Federal firearm licensee, illegal trafficking activity is highly probable.” [UST]

What we have here is an “indicator” — not necessarily hard data — of criminals and those harboring criminal intent using Nevada’s relative lax gun regulation to procure and then to engage in gun trafficking to other states.   This doesn’t secure the proposition that Nevada is a “gun exporting” state, but it is highly suggestive that gun traffickers are taking advantage of the regulatory environment.

The gun export rate is more to the point, Nevada ranks 9th nationally in the “crime-gun export rate” in 2009; 808.  This means that we are 9th in the nation in the number of guns used in crimes in other jurisdictions which can be traced back to Nevada.

Nevada ranks 9th nationally in overall firearm deaths, 2010 — 395 or 14.63 per 100k population.  Nevada ranks 6th nationally in the number of firearm suicides in 2010; 289 or 10.7 per 100k population.   This time being in the top ten is not a good thing.  Being in the top five is truly not comfortable: Nevada ranks 5th nationally in overall firearm deaths 2001 to 2010, 3895 deaths or 15.92 rate per 100K population.

Illogical Fallacies

There have been several kinds of responses to these rankings, the most common was to attack the messenger.  The Center for American Progress, which published the study, was immediately attacked as a leftist organization of elitists fund by George Soros.  [C&L] This tactic obviated the need to address any of the numbers, or the sources of data, or to discuss the conclusions drawn from the analysis — it was enough for detractors to observe the study had to be part of a Great Left Wing Conspiracy to indulge in sweeping and manifestly impractical gun control actions.  Sometimes facts are just facts.

Another common response when facts and figures are introduced into the discussion of gun violence and safety issues is to infuse the numbers with interpretations and inclusions not part of the original data.  For example, when speaking of “gun homicides” gun enthusiasts assert that these numbers “must” incorporate villains shot by law enforcement, and therefore “the numbers are high.”  Cases of individuals shot by police officers are subject to review, and contrary to popular scripted television melodramas aren’t really all that common.  That explains why the incidents show up on the evening news — if such were common they wouldn’t be “news.”

The federal government doesn’t collect officer involved shooting statistics, and would require a Congressional mandate to do so, but we do know that one report assigns 387  justifiable homicides by the police in 2010, down from 414 the previous year. [LVRJ] The CDC reports 31,672 gun deaths in 2010,  so the percentage of death at the end of a service gun would be 1.22% of all gun deaths in the U.S. in 2010.   1.22% is hardly a sufficient number to skew the overall statistical reports.

A third tactic when dealing with uncomfortable facts and figures is to play and mix and match game with specific incidents and overarching generalizations.   If we color code the format it might look like this, using green for facts, blue for a disconnected assertion, and orange for an appeal to emotion:  Yes, the gun enthusiast may assert, in 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings, BUT background check expansion won’t solve that problem because it will only infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens.

A fourth strategy is to confound rational argument by extending the mixes and mismatches to apply to common problems and proposed solutions.  Consider the proposition that “increased background checks would not have prevented the Newtown, CT massacre.”  This contention requires the assumption that a proposal to close the gun show and Internet sale loophole for background checks was specifically intended to address that particular incident.  The assumption is not in evidence.  In this instance the contention is predicated on the conflation of the general public reaction to a  instance of gun violence with a specific proposal to make the acquisition of firearms by felons, fugitives, the seriously mentally ill, and undocumented aliens less likely.

When all else fails, there’s always the good old Gish Gallop in which assertions, distractions, extraneous statistics, and good old fashioned falsehoods are strung together in a verbal barrage of palaver such that there is no way to address the advocate’s “gallop” without literally shutting off the microphone at 15 second intervals.

It’s time to take a serious look at gun violence in this state and the other 49 — Without attacking messengers, without the infusion of muddled interpretations and extraneous information,  without the conflation of general incentives with specific incidents, and without the rambling rationalizations of the irrational.

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One response to “Guns and Numbers: Nevada Rankings

  1. While comments are appreciated for the most part, DB doesn’t approve of commentary which includes profanity. A comment was deleted this morning not because it did or did not agree with the post, but because it contained a “verb” DB doesn’t use on this blog. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.