Video of the day

This so awesome.  Alas, cannot be embedded (and is being vigorously removed from youtube) so just click through.



The ultimate gun control study

So, I heard this NPR story earlier this week about a very compelling story on the power of regulating gun sales.  I kept waiting to see more commentary on this research, but have seen nary a thing.  Shouldn’t this be a big deal.  The most convincing study yet that it really is in society’s interest to try and make sure only law-abiding people are buying guns.  Anyway, here’s the highlights from the story:

In 2007, Missouri repealed a law requiring gun buyers to obtain a license demonstrating they’d first passed a background check. In the years that followed, the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research tracked the results. In the forthcoming issue of Journal of Urban Health, the center will release it’s findings: The law’s repeal was associated with an additional 55 to 63 murders per year in Missouri between 2008 and 2012

And, just to be clear, this was at a time when murders were decreasing in nearby states.  Likewise, the researchers controlled for pretty much anything else you’d want to.  For example, they found that only gun murders increased, not murders in general.

CORNISH: So before we get to what happened, let’s be clear. What did you need to buy a gun, a handgun in Missouri?

WEBSTER: Well, following the repeal, if you were going to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer, you would apply right there with the dealer, give your information and then they would submit it for a background check. However, if you found that inconvenient, you could simply go to a private seller, maybe you would connect at a gun show or through the internet or some other means and that seller would have no obligation to ask any questions, whether you were prohibited or not. They deregulated private transactions for handguns.

CORNISH: In your research, what did you find happened after the repeal?

WEBSTER: Well, firearm homicide rates increased sharply immediately after the repeal of the law. For more than a three-year period following the law, firearm homicides increased by 23 percent… [all emphases mine]

CORNISH: And so how exactly did you measure that, though? I mean, how did you go about narrowing it down to say, yes, it’s because of this law?

WEBSTER: Well, we wanted to first statistically control for other things that might explain changes in the homicide rates, so we controlled for policing levels, incarceration rates, unemployment, poverty and changes to other laws that some studies show are related to homicide rates. We also wanted to know whether the change in homicide rates was specific to firearms or whether it was just an overall increase in violence that had nothing to do with firearms.

What we found is after we controlled for all those competing hypotheses that, again, there was a 23 percent increase associated with the repeal of this law, and it was only found in homicides that were committed with firearms.

CORNISH: And you also looked at criminal traces of weapons, I understand.

WEBSTER: Yes, we did. As we would’ve predicted, if the law is responsible for the increase in homicide rates, we would’ve seen an increase in the diversion of guns to criminals. Looking at data from guns traced to crime, that’s precisely what we found. We found, basically, a twofold increase in the proportion of guns that were being recovered from criminals in crime scenes that had been purchased after the repeal of this law when there’s less accountability in the system.

Yowza!  How is this not big news?  Sure, it’s just one study, but it is an excellent on in taking advantage of the natural experiment in Missouri changing their law.  Now, there are trade-offs here.  The old law made it harder for law-abiding, decent persons to buy a gun.  You know what, that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make to save roughly 60 lives a year?  What’s a life worth to you?  Is the burden of certifying a background check even for a private sale just so much that you are comfortable knowing that other people will lose their life as a result.  That’s the trade-off.  Nobody’s coming to take your guns away, damnit!  By making it modestly harder to purchase a weapon (in an appropriately smart and targeted policy) we save a modest number of lives.  How could people not want to make that trade (I know, they just deny that the trade-off exists).  Frustrating.

Photo of the day

This is so cool.  A “spot the sniper” gallery from the Guardian.  I’m posting this one because it’s one of the few I could actually find the sniper (near the middle).  Click through to the gallery and the images are interactive such that you can click on them and a circle appears around the sniper.


Simon Menner/Simon Menner

Map of the day

US Winter Olympians by state:


If I’m not mistaken, 8 of the 19 Minnesotans are on the hockey team.

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