One Last Thing on The Guns Thing

Well, this certainly has been very interesting.  Two blog posts have brought in a lot more traffic than what this humble blog (and not so humble blogger) is used to. I am sure this will die out when I resume less stuff-from-the-news items. This is the first time I had to close comments because of trolling. And by trolling, I don’t mean people criticizing my work, which I don’t mind as long as it’s done respectfully (if not, I just delete the comment, don’t come and get condescending and patronizing… I wouldn’t put up with that in my living room, so, why should I put up with it here?). Actually, some of these criticisms are the reason why I wrote a second post after the first one that got so much attention (and boy was that first scatterplot reproduced all over the place). Actually, I suspect a lot of people read the first post but not the second one even though it was a response to criticisms.

What is annoying, though, is the bad faith, especially regarding the data. I find it funny that an initial criticism of my analysis was that I only picked OECD countries. This puzzles me. I find it interesting and revealing that some people find it problematic to compare the US to other rich democracies. They’d rather it be compared to Zimbabwe or Mexico or whichever country will compare unfavorably in terms of gun deaths in the US. Now, obviously, a lot of this kind of criticism is total bad faith. Those who make such demands know perfectly well that the US does not compare favorably in terms of structural and interpersonal violence to its developed counterparts, therefore, one must reject such comparisons.

Oftentimes, such a rejection will invoke the “diversity” trope which I already addressed and which does not hold. It is a disguised racist argument as well. And by the way, any country that has “diversity”, in the sense of a variety of racial and ethnic groups, will also have greater amounts of interpersonal violence among and against minorities, precisely based on the fact that such minorities also experience greater structural violence as a product of their socially underprivileged status. A perfect illustration of this is seen in the persistence of institutional discrimination, which is, most of the time, invisible to the privileged categories, and therefore assumed to be non-existent, and therefore, never really addressed nor corrected through public policy. After all, the point of affirmative action is precisely to address institutional discrimination and its transgenerational legacy. And yet, it has faced considerable opposition because it addresses a phenomenon that white Americans never see (and therefore assume it must not exist). As such, white Americans assume that they are being penalized (they are not) for something they never caused (a history of white supremacy), and never benefited from (they did).

Go read this if you think institutional discrimination is a thing of the past:

“Few civil rights laws are more routinely defied than the ban on housing discrimination.

HUD studies have found that African Americans and Latinos are discriminated against in one of every five home-buying encounters and one in every four attempts to rent an apartment.

Only a scant few of these incidents ever come to the attention of authorities.

In 2010, HUD and the National Fair Housing Alliance, reported that HUD, state, local and private groups received about 29,000 complaints from people alleging discrimination for a wide variety of reasons — including race, familial status, disability and national origin. About two-thirds were handled by private attorneys and non-profits which settled cases and, in some instances, filed civil law suits.

The remaining 10,000 went to state, local and federal agencies which together filed only 700 formal charges of discrimination in 2010. That year HUD found reasonable cause to believe discrimination based on race or national origin occurred in just 11 cases. The Department of Justice filed 29 cases — the lowest number since 2003.

The pervasive, unaddressed discrimination in the housing market has far-reaching effects. It is a significant factor in maintaining a segregated America four decades after Congress passed landmark legislation intended to integrate the nation’s communities. It means that African Americans and Latinos who can afford to move to better neighborhoods are systematically blocked from doing so. They and their families are thus deprived of opportunities — from access to grocery stores with fresh vegetables to adequate health care to top-flight schools.

The negligible number of housing discrimination cases arises largely from fundamental choices by federal agencies.

Instead of actively searching for landlords and agents who discriminate, federal officials open investigations only after complaints are filed. But most victims have no idea they’ve been discriminated against, which means they never demand an inquiry.”

And so, several people accused me of cherry-picking my data. Well, if by selecting apt comparisons and looking for countries for which I had data to compare, so be it. I did not cherry-pick in the sense of looking for data that would simply validate some preconception. I did not have a preconception (except what I know of the phenomenon from my work and knowledge of the field). I used data that is publicly available, so anyone is free to go and look for themselves.

It was actually funny that some people showed up and demanded that I run different statistical tests, pick different countries, use different variables and measures. Guys, again, the data is available publicly. Blogs are free. Do your own work. Don’t come here and tell me what to do and ask me for stuff. Do your own homework if you think you have a point to make and a case to support it. It’s not my job to do your homework for you.

Actually, most people who are familiar with the field and the data know that I did not find anything that was not already known. My data did not show any new and yet undiscovered trends. But the level of defensiveness from the pro-gun folks and quite astounding.

Anyhoo, this was an interesting experience and I am grateful for the “bigger” bloggers who linked to my pieces.

4 thoughts on “One Last Thing on The Guns Thing

  1. Hey Prof 🙂

    Can you point me to some good posts (yours or others) dismantling the diversity trope? I find myself running into this (dumb and frustrating) argument quite a bit and not having a good rebuttal. Thanks.

    All the best,


    • You know, I have never found anything specifically on that either. That’s the first thing that my students often say as if it explained everything but when I ask them what they mean, they can never really articulate it, which is the essence of a cliche.

  2. If your #1 was correct, then, all these countries that have strict gun laws would be flush with crimes committed because no “good guy” has a gun to prevent them. That’s not the case. That’s the other coin of your other non-existent coin.

    #2 – don’t being anti-pharma conspiracy theories here. That site you link to is just ridiculous.

    And your generic “violence” still does not explain the gun part.

  3. I may be missing it, but I wondered if you had a scatterplot comparing total homicide rate to rate of firearms ownership by country?

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