Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gun laws can make a difference

I know I will be viciously attacked for posting this article. Nonetheless, I am pursuing my goal of educating my readers and providing information to support my case that passing common sense gun laws can make a difference. Here is an article from the New York Times about a just released study from the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group that adds credence to all that I have been blogging about. My "friends" from the loyal opposition do not appreciate Mayor Bloomberg and the group of Mayors who are diligently and persistently pursuing evidence that illegal gun trafficking is alive and well and needs to be stopped. One of the ways they know would help is "closing the loophole" in our gun laws that allow just anyone to purchase guns from private sellers without background checks. I have certainly been writing about that particular provision and strongly believe it should happen. 

This comprehensive study of illegal gun trafficking looks at gun laws and how they vary state to state. Crime guns have been traced to their origins and the laws examined for the "time to crime" between when a gun is sold and when it is recovered in a crime. Many measures can be taken by states to prevent illegal gun trafficking, such as "reporting of lost and stolen guns", cracking down on straw purchasing, cracking down on "bad apple" gun dealers, requiring background checks on all gun sales at gun shows and others. It is clear that states with lax gun laws are providing more crime guns that often show up in other states. 

I hope you will read the full study in the link above. It is an important study that provides much needed information that should be taken seriously. What stands out for me is that we CAN do something to prevent gun injuries and deaths by strengthening lax laws and passing laws that will make it less likely that guns will be used in crimes that often kill innocent people. Here is a quote from the conclusion of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns study: " Although the rates at which states export crime guns vary significantly, states that have enacted strong gun laws have significantly lower export rates than states with weak gun laws. " And for me, there is another obvious conclusion. The way to make sure that crime guns found in one state don't come from another state is to pass national gun laws for the sake of consistency and public safety. There is strong resistance to these simple measures by the gun lobby. Why? When we know there are things that work, we should apply them anyway, even against strong resistance. Doing the right thing can save lives. Elected leaders- are you listening?


  1. I believe private sales need to be outlawed nationwide. Every sale/transfer should go through an FFL and get a background check. These background checks should be done at some minimal cost.

    There are many benefits to this. It would make it harder for the crazies/felons to acquire guns. It would also offer stimulus to our economy by providing jobs for people who run background checks. Legitimate gun sellers would make a bit more money by not having to compete with unlicensed gun dealers.

    Someone asked how this could be done without the government tracking guns. Perhaps a private corporation could be setup to run background checks and merely provide statistics to the government?

    Cracking down on private sales would be incredibly easy. Once LE goes on the prowl for "private gun sellers" most of them would quit advertising. You wouldn't be able to find them at gun shows. Most gun sales would be forced to go the legit route.

    I really think this is something that needs to happen in the next couple of years. With incorporation, it shouldn't be too terribly hard to pass nationwide gun laws.

  2. I took a look and found some unsurprising conclusions--like states making up 47% of the US population are responsible for 49% of short time-to-crime guns, and that most guns in the US are initially sold by a gun dealer.

    The part that is never adequately explained is why the guns originating in, say, Mississippi don't cause trouble until they get to a strict-law area? Seems reasonable to me that the problem is that in the "easy guns" states, victims are more likely to shoot back, and criminals don't like that.

    Another bit I noticed is some of the suggestions to "fix" trafficking includes going back to discriminatory issue of carry licenses, and I would assume similar criteria for the handgun purchase permits they want. Two issues here. First, whenever police have discretion in issuing carry licenses, race is a significant factor--whites are much more likely to be issued a license than blacks.

    Is there any objective evidence that carry licenses increase crime? Best I've seen you guys come up with is an increase in false arrests of license holders for the first couple years of Texas carry license.

    Look at the conviction rate of carry license holders, compare it to the conviction rate of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and decide who we should emulate.

  3. Quite apart from my position on gun rights, as someone who teaches statistics to university students and uses statistical methods in my research, I'm pretty appalled by this report.

    All of their analysis seems to involve looking at export rates and the proportion of guns with a "short time to crime" for states with fewer gun laws and comparing it to states with more gun laws (often with the national average on the graph for comparison). They don't say anything about the standard deviation, nothing about the distribution, and no tests of the statistical significance of the relationship. This is not a statistically valid approach. There are well tested ways of analyzing this sort of data that are taught in any undergraduate statistics course.

    In addition, the fact that every one of their comparisons has the same result makes me suspicious. In academic research, standard practice is to report all of your analyses, not just the ones with positive results. This keeps researchers from cherry picking analyses that support their hypothesis. Now I don't know for sure that they did more comparisons, but the fact that they're batting a thousand makes me suspicious.

    This is really shoddy research. Any student in my quantitative methods class that turned this kind of analysis in as a semester project would get an F. According to the NYT article the study was done by Bloomberg's office. They really should have contracted it out to some quantitative social scientists. As it stands, the lack of good statistical analysis really undermines their argument for anyone who has a background in statistics.

  4. Well, that's a first- more Mayors convicted than permit to carry license holders. I'll have to check up on that one. Any facts to support that? What were they convicted of- killing someone or injuring someone?

  5. Here's the link to an admittedly tongue-in-cheek website detailing the criminal exploits of many of MAIG's fine, upstanding members. While the page might be humorous, the actions of these crooks certainly isn't. http://www.stopillegalmayors.com/

    Also, I just wanted to point out to you that on several occasions you have derided a pro-gun poster's source as being obviously biased, yet you prominently feature a study by an obviously biased anti-gun group...


  6. Joan, Sevesteen is obliquely referring to the fact that several members of MAIG have been charged and convicted with a variety of crimes. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the criminal conviction rate amongst MAIG members was actually higher than amongst carry permit holders.

  7. I can't think of one report or study I have posted that you guys believe.

  8. "I can't think of one report or study I have posted that you guys believe."

    I'm a newcomer to your blog, so I can't really speak to what you've posted previously. However, there is an awful lot of misuse and abuse of statistics and statistical methods in debates over firearms law (from people on both sides of the debate, I might add). From my point of view this report seems particularly bad because it's not even a debatable use of statistical methods. They don't use any statistical methods at all, but they try to dress it up like it's some kind of valid quantitative research.

    One of the hazards of knowing something about statistics is that you realize how seldom they are used correctly in public debates. :-(

  9. Welcome to the fray, Chris. This report may not have statistically significant data but it does show trends about illegal guns. The numbers of guns traced and the number of crimes are facts, of course. The state gun laws are facts. I am not sure how you would use statistical data here unless with the possibilities of guns from states with lax guns providing the guns used in crimes in other states. Perhaps a statistician could be sent the data or do a different report. My point is that no matter what facts I have posted here, including the CDC, FBI, actual reports of crimes and shootings, most of the people here choose not to believe it or find a flaw. There are flaws all the way around. I have asked for factual information and not biased. To the extent that this report was issued by MAIG, I suppose it could be considered biased. I don't think they fudged any data. They looked at some numbers and used ATF figures and then did point out the trends. The conclusions, I suppose, could be questioned by those who don't like the findings. But I find enough data here that coincides with other information about where the crime guns come from and the numbers of homicides and suicides being greater in states with laxer gun laws, that I don't doubt the conclusions.

  10. "I am not sure how you would use statistical data here"

    The most basic thing would be to publish standard deviations along with the averages. This would make it possible to compare the variation within the two groups with the variation between them. If the variation within each group of states is small compared to the variation between the states with lots of gun regulation and states with little gun regulation, then it would tend to reinforce Bloomberg's argument. Conversely, if the variation between groups is large compared to the variation between groups, then that would tend to detract from the strength of their conclusions.

    Going one step further, they could apply a simple t-test to the data to calculate how likely it is that there really is a difference between the trace data for states with more gun regulation and states with less gun regulation. That would really tell us whether these results are worth taking seriously or not.

  11. Certainly MAIG is an organization biased against the trafficking of firearms - who isn't. Chris seems to require that the report be done to some statisticians' standards, and implies that it is unreliable otherwise. He doesn't, however, give even one specific example of a flawed conclusion. Whose stats are unreliable? MAIG's or ATF's?

    Regarding convictions of MAIG members, in what states can you even vote, much less hold public office, if you have a felony record?


  12. "He doesn't, however, give even one specific example of a flawed conclusion."

    Without some solid statistical basis to work from, there's really no way of telling which (if any) of their conclusions are flawed. I could engage in some speculation, but that would be no more valid than their study is in the first place.

  13. "Whose stats are unreliable? MAIG's or ATF's?"

    Actually, the ATF's. Although unreliable is not exactly correct. They are just not suitable for the purpose they are being used for.

    See page 2 of this report: http://www.atf.gov/statistics/download/trace-data/2009/2009-trace-data-oregon.pdf

    To quote the important part: "Not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime."

    So if you base your report off of a statistic that does not measure what you think it does ('crime guns'), then what do you have?

    Note that this is well known and has been brought up in regards to their 'studies' many times over the years. There is nothing accidental about it.

  14. thanks for providing this link. Interesting information not dissimilar to that in the MAIG study. I did not see any statistical information, as Chris (above) wants to have for studies, though. If you look at #4 in the end notes of the MAIG study, you will find a lot of information about ATF crime gun trace data: " In 2007, Mayors Against Illegal Guns succeeded in securing language in the Tiahrt Amendment restrictions that explictly allowed law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to share with each other any trace data they acquire connected to their criminal investigations. In addition, ATF was explicitly allowed to begin releasing limited statistical reports using aggregated trace data. These limited
    statistical reports paved the way for the coalition’s 2008 report, The Movement of Illegal Guns in America. In 2009, Mayors Against Illegal Guns secured new language in the Tiahrt Amednments that restored full access for state and local law enforcement to ATF’s gun trace database. Although there are still significant restrictions on the use of ATF crime gun trace data, the recent reforms allowed ATF to provide the data relied upon in this report to Mayors Against Illegal Guns."
    So, there have been restrictions on the ability of the ATF to share information for years. No wonder we don't have good information. This is the first study since that information is now being released, albeit still on a limited basis. Note- it does say the ATF provided statistical reports. This looks pretty thorough to me. Killing the messenger doesn't kill the message.