09 January 2013

Belated Happy New Year

Greetings to the dozen or so readers remaining on this blog - unfortunately as my colleague said recently, I am now back in the world of work, and my wife has not been in the best of health so the blog has had to take a back seat, but just a quick post to wish people a very Happy New Year, and hope 2013 is a better year than its predecessor.

The USA marked yet another grim milestone before year's end with yet another school shooting in a relatively calm small town, this time in the tiny state of Connecticut, not a million miles away from me (Indeed a number of my co workers are based in Fairfield County, where it took place) the shooting reignited the seemingly eternal debate about gun control, and has led former Mirror editor Piers Morgan to weigh in on the side of far more restrictive gun control. This has led to arguably the first 'must see' clip of the year, with an old reference of both mine and Hal's, Texas based 'shock jock'  Alex Jones appearing on Morgan's show

Predictably the glitterati who live over here (mainly it has to be said in California) like Ricky Gervais and celebrity types who seem to hold such sway in the era of Social media have branded Jones ' the best advert for gun control he could possibly have' and made fun of him, and it's fair to say his tirade against Morgan probably comes across as slightly unhinged. However, the message needs to be made loud and clear, that whatever the merits of Gun Control, Morgan's argument is a shockingly inept one.

Arguably Two of the key events I recall from the UK in my formative years were the twin massacres, in 1987 at Hungerford, and in 1996 at Dunblane which led the UK to adopt arguably (maybe excepting Japan) the most stringent gun control laws in the world. The good faith attempt to call for reform of laws that were already very tight in 1996 by the much smaller shooting lobby in the Uk were drowned out in a howl of orchestrated media outrage, with the Daily Telegraph a lone voice of sanity in the morass. I'm sure those firearm owners that remain in the UK are grateful that the outrage occurred (because the existing law wasn't properly enforced) prior to the arrival of Twitter and Facebook, what Rod Liddle so accurately described as 'new conduits for the brain dead and moronic'. In the wake of that legislation, every single prediction made at the time by columnists perhaps more predisposed to think things through than the rentaquotes of the Sun and Daily Mirror has come to pass.

1/ The number of guns in circulation continues to rise (note- this isn't the same thing as the murder rate rising) as any control of who had guns has been lost.

2/ By definition , the only people in possession of them are now criminal elements and the Police

3/ Britain's Olympic shooting team is the only one in the world unable to practise in its country of origin.

Jones would have done better to point out that for Morgan's example of the UK I could find at least five countries with relatively high gun ownership (Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland and Norway)  and relatively tiny homicide rates. Anyway, the serious debate which needs to accompany this issue looking at licensing laws, storage of firearms and the practicality of placing a simplistic ban in a nation where there are more guns than people looks as far off as ever...


Hal Berstram said...

I think I broadly agree with what you're saying here - there was no real reason to tighten the laws we already had in 1996.

What I've still not seen (from either the pro- or anti-gun lobby side) is a serious piece of statistical analysis that tries to model the extent of gun-related crime as a function of the stringency of gun control laws plus a variety of other control variables (e.g. population size, inequality etc.) in a cross-country panel regression so that we can attempt to establish what the CAUSAL impact of gun control legislation on gun-related crime (if any) is. Do you know of any such work?

Van Patten said...

I agree - It's quite hard to get any statistical analysis that isn't skewed by the two factors you mention (amongst others). It's very easy to trot out states whose homicide rates are negligible, and who have very poor areas and relatively level income distribution (Many in the Midwest for example), and conversely using California as an example to point out the fallacy of gun control is equally absurd given levels of gang violence in big cities,but I wait in vain for such a work - I'll keep hunting it.

The trouble is, in a state like say, Nebraska or Kansas, any attempt to do legitimate research by people who are perceived as 'pro Gun Control' would meet with hostility from the locals who perceive that policy in general, especially under this administration is geared towards inner city areas with high ethnic minority population (which isn't Lincoln, Topeka, Overland Park or Omaha sadly)The like of Alex Jones have a big viewership there, and its also a strong breeding ground for militia movements. I might see if I can work on something assuming funding is available!!