Gun control, gun deaths, and spurious correlation (?)

Interesting post in the Atlantic that graphs gun deaths against the stringency of gun laws.  Here’s a couple charts:

And here’s the analysis:

This detailed study is in line with my own correlation analysis (done with my my colleague Charlotta Mellander) in The Atlantic, where I note, “Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).”…

And while gun rights groups have already come out in force to criticize the study’s methods and lack of cause and effect conclusions, he adds that “the authors are very careful in specifying their models and have done as rigorous a paper as possible with existing data.”
The bottom line: gun control appears to work.
As much as the findings intuitively appeal to me, I’m actually a bit skeptical.  Seems to me there’s a huge confound here that’s not being measured in any way (and I went to the freely available article to look) and that is what we might call state-level gun/violence culture.  There’s a number of interesting studies that show, for example, that Southern men have much more of a culture of honor and are much more likely to take offense at an ambiguous situation.  Throw in guns, and that presumably means they are more likely to shoot someone.  Meanwhile, this same macho culture militates against any reasonable gun laws.  The result is that state culture leads to both more shootings and weaker gun laws, rather than weaker gun laws leading to more shootings.  Would love to see some attempt to measure state culture in these models.
In the end, I do think there’s probably something to the stricter laws, but I suspect that’s actually only a small part of the inter-state differences.

Photo of the day

Cool set of desert photos from around the world at Behold.

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia. A flock of James’s flamingos takes flight from the algae-stained waters of this spring-fed lake at 14,000 feet high in theAndes. Numbering around 50,000, James’s are one of the rarest flamingo species. Virtually all the birds’ breeding activity takes place here.

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia. A flock of James’ flamingos takes flight from the algae-stained waters of this spring-fed lake at 14,000 feet high in the Andes. Numbering around 50,000, James’ are one of the rarest flamingo species. Virtually all the birds’ breeding activity takes place here.

George Steinmetz

IS UNC too friendly to rapists

So, I’ve been half-following the story of a woman at UNC who has been charged with an honor violation for repeatedly, publicly naming a man she accused of raping her, as a rapist.  I.e., he has filed a complaint against her for harassment and defamation, essentially.  Last week, I even walked right by a protest while I was on campus.  Anyway, I listened to this nice, thorough story.  Now, I really do not know if UNC is too accepting of rape (honestly, my inclination given my experience on college campuses is to think otherwise), but the facts as laid out in the story certainly do not suggest that this is the case.  To wit:

Gambill’s case made its way through the UNC-Chapel Hill judicial system at a time of transition. The University had just ended its policy of hearing sexual assault cases in its student honor court and had replaced it on an interim basis with a judicial panel made up of two students, two faculty members, and an administrator. The judicial panel also had a lower burden of proof than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal courts.

When the interim judicial panel heard all of the evidence in the case, the group of three women and two men unanimously found the accused not guilty of sexual assault.  [emphases mine]

“It was a very thorough hearing,” said John Gresham, the accused student’s attorney. “I’ve had hearings before the administrative office of the court that were certainly no better conducted than this hearing board did.”

Gambill chose not to appeal the judicial panel’s decision, nor did she file a civil or criminal complaint. Gresham says his client, who has not been publicly named, had to withdraw from school. When he came back, Gambill began appearing at multiple public rallies referring to him as a “rapist” – and that led the former boyfriend to file an honor code complaint against her.

Again, I certainly have no way to know whether Gambill was raped and I genuinely feel for her if she was.  That said, the facts of her particular case are that a judicial body of peers and faculty– including a majority of women– unanimously found for the alleged rapist.  And under a lower standard than reasonable doubt.  The facts in this particular case give no indication whatsoever that UNC goes easy on rape.  Maybe they do, but Landen Gambill has given me no reason to believe that.

Get happy– have kids

Really enjoyed reading the latest research on parenthood and happiness from Sonja Lyubomirsky.  Actually came across this the same day I was doing my best to convince a friend he needs to reproduce.  (I would never do that with somebody who was firm in their commitment to not have children.  This friend was just really on the fence and, quite reasonably, apprehensive about all the changes it would bring to his life).  Anyway, here’s  a nice interview with the author that sums up the key points (bold emphases mine):

Children and happiness is actually a very complicated topic, so, of course, there are a lot of contradictory findings in the literature. Some studies show that parents are happier than non-parents, and some show that parents are less happy.

We just published a paper that has three different studies that show, in general, parents are somewhat happier, and they report more meaning in their lives. This is true as they go about their days and when they spend time with their children, as opposed to when they’re doing other things.

But, you know, after we published that paper we asked ourselves: Well, is the question whether parents are happier even a very meaningful question, because there’s so many different kinds of parents? Can you really lump together parents of newborns to parents of 30-year-olds?

I have these two great grad students, and they just wrote this really great review paper addressing that question. We looked at all the literature on parenting and happiness and we put it all together. Basically, we find that certain kinds of parents are happier: parents who are middle-aged and older, parents who are married, parents who have children in their custody, parents who have relatively trouble-free children—and fathers, actually. It turns out the happiness effect is much stronger for fathers as opposed to mothers.

So when you try to answer that question, you really have to look at the kind of parent, and the kind of child you have, and the age of the child, and the age of the parent. But I think one of the bottom lines from the research is that parents do report greater meaning and purpose in their life after they have children.

Well, I pretty much nail almost all those categories.  Damn do I fall short on that “relatively trouble-free children.”  Obviously, the gender effect is really quite interesting.  I suspect it’s because the benefits of parenthood are pretty similar for both men and women while women surely bear more of the costs.  Anyway, since I love the topic, I actually read most of the actual journal article.  It’s actually quite accessible.  It really is quite impressive that they look at the issue in a variety of ways with a variety of data that all lead to similar conclusions.  Time to put that “parents are less happy” line to bed.  Though, probably not so great to be a single mom.  Anyway, here’s a cool visual summary of some key findings from the piece:



So, some pretty compelling data.  I’ll be interested to see how often we keep hearing that parents are less happy.  Would actually also love to see some cross-national data on this.  So, you know what to do– reproduce.  (Unless, of course you are a young, single woman).

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