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The correlation between gun ownership and gun death October 3, 2006

Posted by dorigo in internet, news, politics.

A comment by my friend Riqie on my last post compelled me to search the web for data on what I already knew all too well – the existence of a tight link between the propriety of guns and the deaths by gunshots.

Below is a story-telling plot I took from http://www.guncontrol.ca/Content/TheCaseForGunControl.html. The reference is:

Miller, T. and Cohen, M. “Costs of Gunshot and Cut/Stab Wounds in the United States, with some Canadian Comparisons. ” Accid Anal Prev 1997; 29 (3): 329-41.

The data includes canadian regions, the US, Australia, England. The correlation is so striking there is little to argue about. You want to reduce the gunshot death rate ? Fewer Paradise, Columbine, and the like ? Take down the amount of guns in circulation, period. Oh, sure, I can hear the outcry: “we will not feel safe anymore, with no guns in our house”. What can I say… I agree. The US is a dangerous place to live.



1. Gordon Pasha - October 3, 2006

Correlation does not imply causation. Don’t you think that
England/Wales have many other things that make them
different from the Yukon territory than gun ownership?

To give some evidence for the point you are trying to make
you should give examples of places that reduced the number
of guns and saw a reduction in the number of gun deaths.

You will find none. Most countries that banned guns or
tightened gun laws (example England which tightened
very significantly throughout the 20th century)
saw gun violence increase. Of course, you will claim,
“but that proves nothing, other factors are responsible
for that”.

My point exactly.

2. dorigo - October 3, 2006

Dear Gordon,

sure, correlation and cause are two different things. And indeed the plot above shows the situation in very different realities.
However, a comment is in order regarding that.

Indeed, even if you take England and Yukon out of the plot, the correlation coefficient stays roughly the same. The trend is a real one, and other factors – different cultures, latitudes, time zones – count much less than the number of guns in the households to determine the death rate by gun shots. That observation alone, indeed, is statistically significant: the spread around the trend line is small, despite the inhomogeneity of the data. It proves a point, rather than casting doubt on it.

About laws tightening gun possession: there simply is no meaningful data on that. But I guess that stopping completely the sale of ammonition would do the trick – in ten or fifteen years.


3. riqie - October 3, 2006

I am quite certain that otulawing internal combustion engines would reduce traffic deaths (at least until we retool). So what? I suppose you will ban the cutlass next, thwarting those of us trying to save the planet from global warming. Avast!

4. Torbjörn Larsson - October 4, 2006


Are you implying guns have other uses? From the graph it is obvious that you don’t need it to be or feel safe. That may be hard to imagine for some, but that is what you experience when you live in a gunfree area. Conversely, it doesn’t feel safe to travel in countries that has a sloppy attitude towards guns. (Recreational guns for hunting or sports are best stored in locked safes.)

5. Gordon Pasha - October 4, 2006


Your plot is too small to measure true correlations. For instance, if you ignore the outliers Ontario and Yukon, there is no correlation at all throughout Canada. Inconvenient examples like Switzerland and
Israel (high gun ownership, tiny murder rates) are omitted, for example. A larger table can be seen at,


Going back to causation, many municipalities, counties, etc, in the US have banned or severely restricted the purchase of guns. Usually gun violence has increased. You will argue that well, for things to really work you would have to ban them in the whole country. Given that there are about 200+ million guns in the US (no one really knows exactly how many) and billions and billions of rounds out there, do you really think, even pretending the illusion that they won’t be smuggling (5 million people cross the mexican border illegally, imagine how many guns could cross), that things would actually improve?

“If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”


6. RICHARD MILISCI - October 4, 2006


7. dorigo - October 4, 2006

Hi Richard,

I think you are right.

But I still think guns should NOT be sold freely, in the US or anywhere else in the world.


8. Fred - October 4, 2006

We men will never give up our guns because we’ve determined that killing and intimidation serves our needs. But I wonder what kind of slant people will put on their arguments in the distant future when guns will be emitting light, sound, radio, micro, (and yes) virtual waves controlled by sensor mechanisms. Just dial in the variables, set the angle, degree, position and intensity to shape the wave and voila! No rounds, no smoke, but more jobs for the many new types of ballistic tests to be conducted to determine “Just the facts, ma’am.” And just another way to protect our fears.

9. Terje Petersen - December 15, 2006
10. Dashingstud - December 7, 2008

The UK and Japan have the lowest gun deaths per person than anywhere in the world. They also have the lowest gun ownership of any country on earth.

The USA has the highest gun ownership and the highest deaths.

The debate is over.

11. Hank - March 4, 2009

We don’t need more gun control we need stiff laws to punish offenders not the slap on the wrist they now receive. Anyone who thinks banning guns will solve anything is an idiot criminals will always have guns. And punishing everyone everywhere by banning guns because of the immoral actions of a few is rediculous.

12. dorigo - March 4, 2009

Hank, so the way to counter criminality is to distribute guns. Great, deep thought. Thank you for your contribution to this thread. Now please tell me why the US rate of gun deaths is several times higher than in other civilized countries.


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