Thanks very much for the response. I like where you’re going, and I’d like to hit your questions one by one to try and give you my perspective. When I started this blog, I decided I didn’t want to talk about rights at all, just about math, when it comes to guns, because I don’t think folks on the (control) side of this discussion really understand it, and I want to help them out. Please let me know if this is helpful.

What do you think would happen to the rate of fatal police shootings if police were confident that almost the entire population were unarmed? Up, down or no change?

I doubt they’d go away entirely, but I definitely think they’d go down. But for this to be entered into the discussion, we have to discuss whether the juice is worth the squeeze. In 2018 there were 992 fatal police shootings, out of 327.2 million people. That’s a rate of 0.00030%, or one per every 330,000 people per year.

I am not in favor of fatal police shootings, but when we talk about problems we need to understand their scope and scale. To get the police confident that almost the entire population were unarmed, we’d probably have to get ourselves down to UK ownership rates, which would mean collecting (somehow) 98% of the guns in the country. Math for that here:

And you’re not going to be able to do that without door to door seizures, which would almost assuredly begin in places like Ferguson MO, by police in MRAP tanks, and the number of fatal police shootings during an operation like that would go fabulously up.

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There’s a secondary argument that non-fatal violence in the UK is exacerbated by the fact that street thugs can be assured that thuggery is safe. That case is made often by the pro-gun side, but I don’t feel that case is even necessary. The truth is getting the US down to UK ownership levels is simply impossible without massive violent gun confiscation, and that still probably wouldn’t work.

That juice is not worth the squeeze, mathematically speaking, and would remain not-worth-the-squeeze if I was ideologically anti-gun.

What do you think would happen to suicide rates if gun ownership was reduced to 10% of current levels? I think you’ve answered that one.

It would go down. We can do that math directly. I did it here:

Overall suicide rate does track bivariately with gun ownership rate. But we can get the same sort of efficacy of massive gun seizure with education and targeted efforts to get suicidal people to choose to entrust their guns to friends or loved ones. Curiously, many gun control measures in blue states literally prevent this, and make this problem worse:

What do you think would happen to homicide rates in the US if gun ownership was 10% of current levels? This is the hardest one, but it takes out other variables such as different cultural norms across the world etc.

You’re right that it’s a multivariate problem, but the Seigal study in the article you’re responding to gives us that multivariate mathematical tool. I did something very similar to what you’re talking about here:

I didn’t do a 10% analysis, I did a “half of current ownership rate” analysis, presuming a $750/gun buyback. The result is you’d have to buy up about 80 million dollars worth of guns for every one homicide you avert. The thing doesn’t work purely because we have so many guns, and again, that would remain true even if I were ideologically anti-gun. We could assuredly avert far more homicides by increasing police presence by 80 million dollars a year, or by using that 80 million to address income inequality, etc.

What would happen to gun homicides if there were zero guns? OK, we know the answer to that, so at what point on the continuum from high gun ownership to zero gun ownership would an effect be seen? Is it a continuum? Is it a break point? It can’t be neither. It can be a bit of both.

Well, there’s an obvious zero boundary here. I get what you’re saying, but you have to be careful not to do silly things with your numbers, like this guy did when he tried to trash me on twitter:

If I were to guess, I’d think that the actual function we’re talking about looks a bit like the one I described in “Buybacks don’t work” above, but with a sharp hook downward through the origin that begins at around the 3% ownership rate level. But that sharp downward hook is of no consequence to us here, because we will literally never get there, because we have so many guns.

To be clear my 3% estimate is purely an educated guess from staring at these numbers, particularly the international ones, for a long time. I’m not sure there’s a good way to reliably determine where that inflection point occurs. I do know from the US numbers that no US state is near it.

Do you think there are gun homicides enacted by people who previously had no record that would be preventable if they didn’t own a gun?

Every “gun homicide” would be preventable if they didn’t own a gun, by pure definition, but many of them would be realized as “knife homicide” or “strangulation homicide” or similar. And some would probably turn simply into non-fatal assault, because guns are way better at killing people than baseball bats. This is literally why guns were invented. I have no problem admitting this.

But I don’t think that an overall reduction in firearm proliferation would really affect this number much until we got the gun ownership rate down near the zero boundary, where scarcity would start to come into play. Think of it this way. Right now any criminal can find ten guns. If you magically evaporate half the guns, any criminal can find five. Controlling firearm homicide by gun eradication only works if you can get your hypothetical country down past a very low inflection point where scarcity starts to matter, and we are so far past that inflection point today that it’s not a realistic objective for the United States. More on that here:

That also means that more guns won’t lead to more crime either, because we’re so far past this inflection point. If every criminal can find ten, and he only needs one, then a few extra don’t matter. The Vegas shooter didn’t need twenty guns. He needed one, maybe two if the first one jammed.

There’s also the question of why we’re worried at all, when we’re in a period of historically how homicide rate.

Do you think some of the multiple homicides would be as bad if the perpetrator didn’t own a gun, or didn’t own an auto/semi-auto gun?

To be clear, basically nobody owns an automatic gun. Their manufacture has been banned since 1984, and the few guns from back then which were grandfathered cost you more than a new car, and require extensive checks and paperwork from the ATF. They’re also almost never used in crime.

I do think a multiple homicide is easier and more deadly with a semi auto firearm. But what gets lost in the shuffle in this discussion is that semi auto handguns are far more useful in crime, up to and including mass shootings, than semi auto rifles, for two reasons. One, they’re far more concealable. Two, you can fit more rounds in a backpack. Which means even if we pretend that we could somehow evaporate all the semi auto rifles in the country (we can’t) all we’d be doing is funneling mass shooters into more effective weapons. And run of the mill criminals almost never use rifles, because rifles aren’t concealable.

Eradicating all semi autos including handguns from the country would mean collecting (somehow) something like 20% of the total number of firearms that exist in the Solar System, provided there’s no secret stash on Mars we’re not aware of. So again you’re into yet another “is the juice worth the squeeze” question. It’s not worth the squeeze.

I’m sure you would agree that, just because statistics have been misused and abused, doesn’t mean that a causal link can never be established. All science starts with trying to come up with the right question before then interrogating the data or running trials.

The thing that frustrates me the most about digging deeply into the science in this space, is it’s incredibly ideologically driven. I think what’s going on, overall, is that the sort of people who decide to make gun research their career come into that decision from an ideological position. Their ideology was what drove them to choose their profession. And that colors the studies quite a bit. This was a good example:

This study was widely circulated in the blue tribe media, but when you look line by line through it, there are some real howlers that slid right past peer review, and the study’s conclusions don’t support the media’s interpretation of them.

Thanks again for the response. I really appreciated your measured tone, and I hope I did a reasonable job of conveying my perspective. This is a difficult topic to speak on without people on both sides dragging their respective culture war baggage into the dialog, so I relish the opportunity to have calm, reasoned discussions when they arise.

Have a good day sir!

Conscientious objector to the culture war. I think a lot. mirror: www.freakoutery.com writer at: www.opensourcedefense.org beggar at: www.patreon.com/bjcampbell

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