Guns & Violence, Again…
With the recent spate of mass shootings, (at least four high-profile incidents occurring in the U.S. and Canada in the last two weeks), the issues of guns and violence inevitably come up. Naturally, the politically correct wisdom, which is founded on the blank slate (or at least, a bare slate), wants to blame these events on “environmental,” “cultural,” and “societal” factors. We saw much of this bullshit in action with the most high-profile of these shootings, Elliot Rodger’s rampage. I have commented on this (see Beware Armchair Psychoanalysis). In his case, crackpot theories weren’t limited to coming from the bare slate P.C. establishment, but came from within the “genetically-informed”* community itself. Few of these explanations likely have any truth to them, and my earlier post should have made the foolishness of cooking up these environmental theories obvious.
This is not to say that there aren’t environmental factors that play a role in these crimes, but they are hard to identify. Peter Turchin’s work may be the closest to fleshing some of these out.
However, most of the naive discussion on the matter ignores one incredibly important factor in rates of violence and the prevalence of guns: DNA.
Previously, in my post Guns & Homicide, Map Form, I showed that the relationship between the prevalence of guns and homicide, globally, was pretty weak:
While it’s not totally clear if this map distinguishes gun homicides from gun suicides, it nonetheless shows that the association between the presence of guns and violence is pretty damned weak. This is true if even we limit ourselves to the high average IQ nations (i.e., the “developed” world).
Indeed, an interesting pattern emerges if we look within nations (at all homicides, not just firearm-related), as well (from here):
[Edit, 4/11/15: Added a map of the world, which has homicide rates across the entire globe at a higher resolution than the map at the start of the post
[Edit, 9/26/14: Added
a map of the world, which has homicide rates across the entire globe at a higher resolution than the map at the start of the post: As well as these data in graph form:]
Also, see this close-up of Europe:
There’s plenty of killing in Eastern Europe (even in Finland, apparently, in the Sami areas), mostly the former Soviet states. But even within Russia, rates of violence are higher in the far east. Note the pattern in North America. I will return to that shortly.
On the basic level, before you can postulate a causal relationship, you should at least have a correlation. The “guns cause violence” crowd doesn’t even have that. That didn’t stop one study from somehow finding one, though.
In Gun Ownership and Firearm-related Deaths (2013), the authors claimed a fairly strong (r = 0.8) correlation between the availability of guns in a nation and firearm related deaths it has. A look at their data illustrates this – and the problems with their methodology:
A look at the specific flags featured should make the problem clear: all the countries examined were in Western Europe and the Anglosphere, with Turkey, South Africa, Israel, and Japan thrown in. As we see from the above maps, including Eastern Europe would have thrown off their relationship just a bit.
Additionally, they lumped gun suicides in with gun homicides. It almost goes without saying that there will be a connection between the availability of guns and the rate of gun suicides. Guns make suicide attempts more likely to be successful, for starters.
Though I suppose it could be conceivable that one could argue that the presence of guns has some effect within different Northwestern European peoples. Does this argument make sense? Well, if you’ve been following along here, you might guess where I am going to go with that.
In my series on the American nations, particularly my earlier post, More Maps of the American Nations, I noted the great regional variation in guns and crime. Let us look at some of these again, closely:
And here’s a map by with more granular data, gun dealers per capita per county:
Now let’s compare that with rates of gun homicides across the country (from the CDC):
Gun ownership appears concentrated in Yankeedom, the northern parts of the Far West, and in Greater Appalachia – with a somewhat smaller concentration in the Deep South. The last three of those “nations” clustering together is hardly unusual, because they are often clustered in many aspects, as I’ve previously discussed. But Yankeedom, which is often diametrically opposed to the Deep South, also seems to have plenty of guns. However, here in Yankeedom they are primarily used for hunting. The presence of guns and the existence of gun violence seems to coincide across Greater Appalachia and parts of the Deep South.
The places with high levels of gun violence in America relates to another map:
Gun violence in America is primarily concentrated in areas with large numbers of Blacks and Hispanics. Indeed, the continually ignored fact in these debates about American gun violence is that the reason for the outsized rates of violence of the United States, compared with the other Northwestern European and NW Euro derived countries, is the large Black and Hispanic populations in this country.
The disconnect between the availability of guns and violence also extends to our northern neighbor (from the RCMP):
(2007 murder rate, U.S. and Canada, from here). In Canada, there is no strong association between gun availability and murder – indeed, there appears to be a slight negative association, if anything (this appears to be also true in the U.S. to an extent). Indeed, just next door to me in New Brunswick, there is a fairly high rate of gun ownership, but little violence (the Moncton shooter notwithstanding), as is the case here in Maine as well. The high rate of violence in Nunavut can be traced to its predominantly Inuit population.
But taken together, rates of gun violence across Canada and the U.S. cannot be explained solely by certain racial minorities. Indeed, gun violence appears higher in some White areas as well, primarily Greater Appalachia.
This brings me to another topic thrown about in this whole discussion. That is the issue of “gun culture.” Even excepting certain non-European populations in the U.S., the country does have a considerably high rate of gun ownership. And indeed, guns are an integral feature of “American” culture. (While Canada has a fairly high rate of gun ownership internationally, it is comparable to rates in much of the rest of the NW Euro & derived world.) But, as Woodard would tell you, and as you’d know from following this blog, there is no one “American” culture, and there never was. Support for permissive gun laws and a heavily gun-centric focus are hallmarks of some of the American nations, particularly the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, and the Far West:
As discussed previously (see my posts A Tentative Ranking of the Clannishness of the “Founding Fathers” and Flags of the American Nations), the ancestors of the people that live in these areas came from certain, more aggressive peripheral areas of the British Isles. In the case of the settlers of the Tidewater and the Deep South, the Cavaliers, their ancestors hailed from southwest England. The founders of Greater Appalachia were the descendents the aggressive Border Reivers of the rugged English-Scottish border area.
The martial traditions of these groups live on in the nations of American South. Individuals from these nations, especially those from Greater Appalachia, also went on to found the Far West, as process which itself involved a strong degree of sorting for even tougher, more free-spirited people, as described in my earlier post.
This highlights an important fallacy on the matter of guns and the discussion of “culture” in general in most mainstream circles. People fail to consider where culture comes from. “Culture” is not some intangible, otherworldly agent. Culture is produced by people. More specifically, the traits of a society are the collective behavior of individuals which comprise it – the vector sum of individual temperaments, as John Derbyshire put it, referencing me (see about time 15:00).
This is why commenters look on in puzzlement over the disconnect between the Dixie peoples’ embrace of Christianity and the actual tenets as taught by Christian tradition. These commenters are looking at it the wrong way. Christian teachings aren’t what motivates Southerners’ behavior and is not what shapes their views; they selectively embrace the parts of the religious traditions that “come naturally” to their way of thinking. In other words, religion is an effect, not a cause of behavior (see also The Atheist Narrative). This true of any cultural feature, of which religious behavior and belief are just examples.
This also, by the way, illustrates the futility of looking at one or another specific aspect of a nation’s – indeed even a local region’s – society and assuming that that aspect is the determining variable (in this case, gun availability). This violates one of hbd* chick’s cardinal commandments: “different peoples is different.” Even comparing White Americans in different parts of the country is essentially comparing apples to oranges (or, at least, apples to pears). Even if we found a strong relationship between gun violence and gun availability, the question would then become: why does gun availability vary from society to society (when it’s clearly not technological or economic factors in the way)?
Edit, 4/11/15: [Indeed, see this paper on the heritability of gun ownership in a national sample across the U.S.:
There are strong genetic factors involved, and, more importantly, zero shared environment. This finding in a national sample rules out local cultural effects as being involved.
Looking at the inherited natures of different human populations makes the poor relationship between guns and violence less mysterious. The Swiss can have their guns without much incident. My own people, Jamaicans, not so much. As I said on Twitter:
We do indeed have a lot of work to do to identify what environmental factors (to whatever extent those are relevant) contribute to individual outbursts of gun violence, and indeed, all violence. We certainly aren’t going to get there very quickly if we keep scrambling around recycling the same tired old inadequate explanations every time there’s some attention-grabbing incident.
My previous posts on the American nations:
*I struggle with a name for this collection of people. None of the popular labels, such as “HBD,” “Dark Enlightenment,” “Alt-Right,” etc fit because none of those labels fits every member – nor should it.