To Carry A Gun Is Legal, But To Do This Research For CDC Is Illegal.
For decades the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has tried to study gun violence in America. Republicans blocked their ability to do so every time. Why? Well, the best way to find out is to find out what is in the data that they might be worried about the public finding out.
So I decided to “break the law” and use the publicly available data (links included at the bottom) to look at school shootings, mass shootings and general gun violence and compare them to state laws and gun rankings to see if the argument that having more access, easier access and availability of guns would allow reducing shootings. This is the same analysis that CDC would do if they were allowed to by Congress. Let’s see what I found.
I had a simple question if we looked at gun violence by state and by state affiliation as that would tell us the type of gun laws that state has, we could test the two theories.
The popular common sense thinking states that more guns lower violence because they decrease the desire of a shooter to attack since they know that someone is likely to be there with a gun. It creates a response deterrent because if there are people with guns, the deaths are then likely to be lower since there will be someone with a gun to respond.
So here I look at just school shootings and mass shootings and all shootings, this way we can look at school shootings mass shootings, and all the shootings separately.
Before I dive into the gun vs state data, I’d like to say that I did look at the normally assumed causes of death and murder: population and poverty.
I plotted those against each other, it turns out they have no impact on the murder rate or death rates.
Here we see an R-value of less than .05, which means that less than 5% of the data is explained by the independent variable (population, poverty rate). This basically means that population and poverty rates are irrelevant when it comes to death and murder rates.
So first I look just at state by state for mass shootings between 1949 and 2021.
One thing to note is that eventhough Texas is 75% the population of California, it has the most amount of mass shooting incidents.
There are also far more deaths in Texas than in any other state. Again, this is a state with far more guns than California and fewer people, but more shootings and deadlier shootings. So clearly the shooters are not intimidated by people with guns and people with guns do not prevent them from killing people.
By organizing all of these states by Republican or Democrat according to current governors/legislature or propensity to vote, I look at total deaths and incidents again.
So here we see that people in all states are crazy in looking to harm other people but people in the Republican states are more likely, not likely to try to kill people. This means people are not afraid of attacking others even if they know they are armed, however with strict gun laws, they are less likely to harm people.
However, having guns does not seem to stop people from stopping the shooter. In fact, somehow, the good guy with a gun is nowhere to be seen and the deaths in Republican states are worse in mass shootings, not less. They are more deadly, not less deadly. So having more strict gun laws seems to reduce the number of deaths in a mass shooting.
So school shootings are tough. There have been so many, especially since 2010. Before 2010 there were 69. Then from 2010 to 2020, there were over 250! They are not always deadly or result in mass casualties, they do often leave many children injured for life and psychologically damaged. It’s sick to imagine that school shootings became so common that we rarely hear of them unless they cause mass death.
Here again, I looked at them according to state and by political party. So while California had the most deaths and incidents, it was the outlier, it is also the most populous state.
Here we see that California has the most incidents. But after California are Florida, Texas, and Georgia. California of course is much larger than Texas or Georgia as far as population and has larger cities. But clearly, the idea of armed people doesn’t stop perpetrators from attacking schools.
When we look at the deaths we again have California with the most deaths but the next states are Florida, Virginia, and Texas with Connecticut last because of Newtown.
Here we see again that California is the largest one but the states with liberal gun laws are not far behind.
Of course, we can’t look at individual states and see the whole picture, let’s look at it by gun legislation by looking at how the Politics of the state affect school shootings.
Here we see that when we show individual shootings school shootings according to the state and party, we see that states, where Republicans are stronger and have more lax gun laws, tend to have a trend of more injuries and more deaths and more deaths in general. This means that the good guys with guns are not more likely to stop the higher number of incidents and the bad guys have more guns to do more damage.
If we aggregate all of the deaths then we see that there are more deaths in school shootings in Republican states so again, people with guns are not stopping people from killing. In fact, tougher gun laws seem to prevent deaths.
So by aggregating all the incidents, we can look away from the effect of California's population and look just at how laws affect the chance that there will be shooting. Looking at school shooting incidents, the idea that people have guns does not stop shootings, but stricter gun laws do seem to prevent school shootings.
One last thing I wanted to look at was the effect of gun laws on school shootings. For this I found a website that ranked states according to their “gun freedom” and here this was interesting, the gun freedom of a state ranking did not seem to make much impact. We can see that while mostly republican states had the deadliest incidents, the overall incidents for various parties ran the gamut. The reason for this is twofold: the reasons for the rankings seemed to be semi-arbitrary, like stand your ground laws which do not apply to school shootings (also stand your ground laws seem far less about gun rights than they are about killing rights). Thus something more important ends up defining why Republican states seem to be more deadly, and for that, we’re going to have to look at in the next section where we look at something that seems to create far more impact.
So this part is the one that is most comprehensive but is also most interesting because here we have a lot of data. Here we look at gun ownership rates and gun violence in general and we look at whether it is safer to live in a Democrat state or Republican state. This is the real information that Republicans in Congress have been working hard to suppress by refusing to give CDC the power to study gun violence.
Here we see a plot for gun murder rate vs population with the size of the balloon for gun ownership. So even though Texas has fewer people than California, they have many more guns and the same murder rate. Which means guns don’t decrease violence. On the other hand, Lousiana and many other republican states have a lot of gun violence and large gun ownership compared to the Democratic states.
I decided to plot this against gun laws, and here we actually see that the rank of California and New York is high, which means restrictive on guns but also some of those high in murder states also have strict gun laws. So do gun laws not matter?
So to see if gun laws make an impact on gun ownership, it does appear that it has some effect. The R-squared is .35 and there is a clear trend downward. But it is not strong, so there is something else that explains the high gun ownership in spite of the laws.
Here I wanted to look at the death rate and the gun ownership and gun rank separately but also side by side. And we see a clear relationship between the death rate and gun ownership and the death rate and gun laws. The more guns the higher the death rate, not lower, and the more strict the gun laws and thus the lower the ranking, and the fewer the deaths vs less restrictive laws show a higher death rate for that state. There are of course outliers like Idaho with a low death rate and high rank or Lousiana with strict laws but high death rate, but overall the trend is clear.
So death rates are clearly are related to gun laws and gun ownership. But what about murder? We know that murder and death is not affected by population or poverty. But how do laws and gun ownership effect murder rates?
There is very little effect of gun laws or gunownership on murder. This means that something else effect murder, but certainly not making lax gun laws that increase gun ownership. This means that creating a lax gun environment does not prevent or lower murder.
So what is the effect of gun laws on gun ownership and how does it look when we split it up by state and party?
To look at the relationship of the laws, gun ownership, and the death rate, I plotted them all together with the size of the circle to be the death rate. It is pretty clear that the higher the gun rank the higher the gun ownership with most of the Republican being on high-rank side with high amount of guns and low amount of guns in Democrat state with strict gun laws but the resulting is the fact that in general, with exception of Delaware and New Hampshire, lax laws and high ownership follows high death rates, not the other way around
So what about party effect on gun rate and ownership and murder rate?
When looking at gun ownership or gun law rankings vs the murder rate for a state, it is almost the same plot, with most of the Republican states owning many guns, high rank and high murder rate (larger disks) while the Democrat states have lower rankings and lower ownership but a lower murder rate with some exceptions (which politicians always latch on to in order to extrapolate to the rule when it is clearly an exception, not the rule).
So again I think the plots show the relationships pretty clearly the interplay between laws and ownership and the consequences on our society through deaths, mass shootings, and school shootings. But I’d like to use one more table to really drive the message home of just how dangerous lax laws and having too many guns can be for the citizens of a state.
Here we have totals and averages for Democrat and Republican states, and these numbers are really telling. It is telling because they show just how armed the Republican states are.
Republicans have nearly twice the amount of guns on average, they have a slightly higher population but twice the number of people dying from guns. The average murder rate is twice that of Democrat states, the average death rate is twice that of Democratic states, the gun murders are twice the Democratic states, average death rate is twice that of democratic rates. So they have more guns, it is easier to get guns, but the good guy with the gun does not save the day nor does he deter the shooter, he is often the shooter.
This is just another one of those issues in our country where you see Republican legislators using the ignorance of a population, who are prevented from seeing this information due to blocking the CDC studies. Studies on something that does not keep them safe but is actually killing many of the most vulnerable people within their population. It’s a sad case of capitalism where corporations sell fear and that fear ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If this isn’t enough, find part two on Mass Shootings.
All information was scrapped from Wikipedia
Democrats vs Republicans were based on how the state leaned most over the course of several elections as going by legislature or by governor or by voting for president in any given election was not precise and had a lot of varriability.
Gun scores for each state were taken from the AZ Gun Defenders website.
All data and spreadsheets are available for review here