My cousin posted a meme on Facebook which entailed a graphic of an American Flag beside the Union Jack with the numbers of “Violent Crimes per 100,000 People” listed as United States: 466, and Britain: 2034. It turns out the numbers are slightly skewed by differences which exist in the categorization of crimes between the FBI and Britain’s Home Office. One of the original sources for this comparison of the data has since corrected the estimated number for Britain to 776, though other people have placed the range (The differences in categorization being so broad, and the raw data coming from local jurisdictions so different that arriving at an exact number is impossible) at between 271 (Lower than the US number) and 776.
In spite of the fact that a deeper analysis of the data really leaves unsettled the question of whether Britain is in fact “more violent” than the United States overall, and doesn’t do anything really to connect gun rights to the claim in any way that isn’t indicative of the non causa pro causa fallacy, the factual discovery within the claim which piqued my interest was the disparity between the murder rate (much lower in the United States), and the overall rate of violent crime (potentially higher in Britain) and I wondered if there might be a link between the two that might not have even yet been hypothesized.
I recalled the connection the author of the book Freakonomics made between abortion and violent crime. While stipulating that this has no direct bearing on the moral and ethical questions surrounding abortion, the data seemed to show that regions where abortions were easier to obtain saw a commensurate drop in crime such that a thorough analysis of the data seemed to imply causation. This makes me wonder if high rates of murder in the United States, a hugely disproportionate number of which involve as victims people who come from demographic groups who (statistically) commit crimes, might be connected causally to reduced crime overall. In Springfield, a disproportionate number of the murders are “knucklehead on knucklehead”: Young men involved in gang and/or drug activity killing one another. I apologize if this sounds callous, it isn’t intended to be. If, and this is nothing but wild speculation, the dearth of guns in England creates a situation where young men of “criminal” age and disposition merely injure one other in circumstances where in the United States they kill each other…there are more of them left to commit crimes, whereas in the United States fewer are left to commit the crimes they likely would have if they had survived. What if the connection between the dramatic drop in crime in the United States is, even in part, caused by the availability of guns and the horrific frequency of homicide among young, poor, urban, males?
Finding it distasteful that there may be a connection between the broad availability of guns and the reduction in crime which isn’t “a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun”, but rather unfortunate young men locked in a culture of violence killing one another, doesn’t make it impossible, or even unlikely and, as with the abortion issue and crime, doesn’t speak directly to the ethical and moral questions involved. It’s just an example of the type of thought experiments which can lead to a scientific analysis of data which can help us to better understand our society.