A recent post on Samizdata brought up a point that gets little attention by gun rights proponents because we get tired of being painted with the “RACIST!” brush. (It’s almost another Godwin’s Law that once someone screams “RACIST!” that all intelligent discourse has ended.) That post linked to this one on the Useful Fools website that discussed the difference in crime levels between the U.S. and Europe, and then it goes into some specific homicide data by ethnicity. The conclusion of the piece is that, while the U.S. is considered by Europeans to be a horribly crime-infested nation, the fact is that we have quite a bit less crime than Europeans do, with the single exception of the crime of homicide. And if you look carefully at homicide, you will find that the overwhelming majority of perpetrators and victims of homicide are – wait for it – black. Specifically, young black males. If we could somehow magically reduce the number of black-on-black homicides in our statistics to the general level, our homicide rates would be the equivalent of the average major European nation. This argues then, that guns are not our problem.
But mentioning this fact tends to get gun rights proponents labelled “RACIST!” for some reason, as this comment to the Samizdata piece illustrates:
“[The US] murder rate is high largely due to the multicultural nature of our society.”
I’m disappointed, I never thought such a blatantly racist view would be given support here. What’s gotten into your heads?
“well the crime rate would be lower if it weren’t for the n*ggers”…nah, f__k that.
Posted by: b-psycho on August 15, 2003 11:10 PM
But here’s something really interesting that will undoubtedly get me labled as a racist: Who makes up the overwhelming majority of the homicide victims? In 1999 a total of 4,998 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 (inclusive) died from homicide. Of those, 2,453 were black males – 49%. But black males between the ages of 15 and 24 (inclusive) represent only 7.6% of the population of the US of that age. Read that again – 7.6% of all Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 provide 49% of the victims of homicide by all methods for that age group.
Now, is it a “gun storage” problem, or is it something else?
So, let’s look at homicide, shall we?
This site lists a large amount of crime data gleaned from the FBI’s Uniform Crime reports. For example, in 2000 the U.S. suffered 1,424,289 violent crimes: 15,517 murders, 90,186 rapes, 407,842 robberies, and 910,744 aggravated assaults. Just for fact checking, I compared the homicide data with this FBI site, and it agrees. According to this FBI page, of those 15,517 homicides, 51.5% (7991) of them were committed by blacks (I do not use the hyphenated-American terminology, sorry if I offend anyone,) and 46.7% (7,246) of the victims were black. (This assumes one homicide per offender, of course.) According to the table, blacks made up 12.1% of the population in 2000 (and if that rate of homicide keeps up, they’ll be a significantly smaller minority in a few years.) The rate per 100,000 population for white victims was 5.0 homicides per 100k. The rate for black victims was 31.9.
Let’s run some numbers. The total homicide rate in the U.S. was 5.5/100,000 population, and the total number of homicides was 15,517.
15,517 x 100,000 / 5.5 = 282,127,272.
That agrees well with the 2000 Census count of 281,421,906, which is the number I’ll use. To check, 84.2% of the population is white, or:
281,421,906 x 0.842 = 237,000,000
(Per the Census, 211,460,626, but police statistics tend to include hispanics as white, and they are 35,305,818 thus the total is 246,746,444. Split the difference, 240,000,000. Close enough.)
The homicide rate for whites is 5.0/100,000, so:
240,000,000 / 100,000 x 5.0 = 12,000.
Say what? There were only 15,517 homicides in total according to the FBI. Something smells fishy. Let’s continue, though. Blacks represent 12.1% of the population, so:
282,000,000 x 0.121 = 34,100,000
The Census says 36,419,434. Split the difference, 35,000,000. The homicide rate is 31.9/100,000, so:
35,000,000 / 100,000 x 31.9 = 11,000.
Oooookay. 12,000 + 11,000 = 23,000. That’s an error of 48% Something is obviously awry.
Let’s try a different source. I have found the Centers for Disease Control WISQARS Fatal Injury Report tool quite helpful, so I’ll use it again. The latest data is for 2000, so let’s see what it says.
Total homicides: 16,765.
Total population: 275,264,999.
National homicide rate: 6.09/100,000 (Higher than the FBI’s 5.50)
Black homicide victims: 7,867 – Proportion: 46.9%, in agreement with FBI data.
Rate per 100,000: 22.28 – Considerably lower than the FBI says.
Other homicide victims: 8,898 – Proportion: 53.1%
Rate per 100,000: 3.7 – Again, considerably lower than the FBI says, but the ratio of 6:1 does agree with FBI numbers.
Now, if the U.S. had an overall homicide rate of 3.7/100,000 the total number of homicides in 2000 would have been 10,185. The total number of homicides for the black demographic: 1,306. A reduction of 6,561.
Another nice feature of the WISQUARS tool:
Number of firearm related homicides, all ages, all races, both sexes: 10,801
(36% of the total homicides – 5,964 people, were killed without a firearm, for a non-firearm homicide rate of 2.17/100,000.)
Number of black victims of homicide by firearm: 5,699 (53% of all homicide victims by firearm)
Number of black male victims between 15 and 35 years of age: 4,528 (79% of the total black victims of homicide by firearm, 42% of all victims)
Number of all other male victims between 15 and 35 years of age: 3,274 (30% of all homicide victims by firearm)
Number of black male victims between 15 and 35 that died by firearm: 4,343 (84% of the black male victims, 40% of the gunshot homicides.)
Number of all other male victims between 15 and 35 that died by firearm: 2,402 (73% of the white male victims – close enough to parity.)
And note, 62% of all gunshot homicide victims are males between 15 and 35 years of age.
The homicide by firearm rate for males between 15 and 35? Seventeen per hundred-thousand population.
So, does this prove anything? No. But it suggests, and pretty strongly. It suggests that the homicide by firearm problem is concentrated in a small, identifiable group. It suggests that homicide is heavily concentrated in the overall black demographic, and especially in young black men. And it suggests that instead of pursuing wholesale gun control laws that affect everybody, we ought to be pursuing policies that directly address that problem, because “gun control” doesn’t. And it isn’t a case of whites killing blacks, either. The fact is, it’s blacks killing other blacks in disproportionate numbers, and it’s largely restricted to urban (read “gang-related”) violence. See these Bureau of Justice Statistic charts showing the trends in homicide by race of offender and victim. Read this LA Times article to get some kind of feeling for the problem, or this USA Today piece. Money quote, from the second piece:
“Between 1976 and 1999, 94% of black murder victims were killed by other African-Americans. Nearly two-thirds of black homicides were drug related.”
Homicide is an epidemic in the young black male demographic. If it were a communicable disease, we’d be wearing ribbons and spending money on drug research. Instead we’re banning “assault weapons” and trying to pass licensing and registration laws that this very demographic is going to ignore. (See: England, gun bans, “Yardies”, etc.) And the public health organizations and independent groups are trying to treat firearms as if they were the disease vector.
Now, let’s look at some European homicide rates from Interpol. (Interpol puts the U.S. rate at 5.54 in 2000 in agreement with the FBI. All data is year 2000 unless otherwise noted).
The Netherlands (1998 data): 10.87. (That’s not a misprint, nor an anomaly.)
Sweden: 10.01. (2001 data, but not anomalous.) (Nope. This data is BS. Apparently Sweden’s rate is about 1.2 and steady.)
England & Wales: 1.5
Scotland (same gun laws as England & Wales): 13.3 (also not anomalous.) ERROR! See the bottom of the article. This data is suspect, because it absolutely does not agree with Scottish government data that indicates a homicide rate of about 2.0.
Northern Ireland (if anything, stricter): 9.90. (This does appear anomalous, but the data available is minimal.)
The Republic of Ireland: 1.54 (and historically steady.)
Luxembourg: 14.01! (But they’ve had three seriously bad years in a row. With a tiny population, a small number change results in a large rate change.)
So, what does this suggest? Well, remember, the USA has a non-firearm homicide rate of 2.17 – about equal to a lot of European nation’s entire homicide rates. I have seen gun-control proponents state that if we eliminated all handguns, our national homicide rate would drop to a level like this. (And if frogs had wings…) But what it does indicate is that the level of homicide predominantly among our black population, and specifically concentrated among young black men skews our national homicide rate significantly. It also suggests something else: that homicide rates are very “culture-specific.” Switzerland, a heavily armed nation, has relatively small homicide rate. Finland, with a large preponderance of personal firearms, has
a tiny homicide rate a rate of about 3.0, while right next door Sweden has a rate nearly twice the US’s (depending on which rate you want to believe) of about 1.2 as noted above. And on the other side of Sweden, Denmark’s homicide rate is less than half Sweden’s. (Or not. The Interpol data isn’t reliable.) (The Fins kill themselves at a prodigious rate – primarily by asphxiation – but have yet to take up the bad American habit of killing several other people first.) England, with all its gun control problems still maintains its tiny homicide rate, but Scotland has the same gun laws and its rate is higher than the U.S. rate has ever been, and has been higher still. (15.35 in 1998 for instance.)
It also suggests that our near 1:1 parity of firearms per person in this nation (admittedly concentrated among perhaps 35% of the adult population) is not the cause of our homicide rates. So what about other kinds of crime? The U.S. is almost universally viewed as a lawless wild west. How about it? This question is somewhat stickier, because different countries record crime differently. Homicide is pretty straightforward – somebody died at someone else’s hands. But is slapping someone equivalent to beating them with a tire-iron? (Legally it is here – it’s assault and battery and can be recorded as such.) What about rape? Are the levels recorded affected by how likely a woman in country A is likely to report a rape compared to country B? How about burglary? Well, Interpol records “breaking and entering,” so we’ll look at that:
United States: 728.80/100,000
England & Wales: 1,728.98
Northern Ireland: 933.27
Republic of Ireland: 595.27
The Netherlands (1998): 3,100.40
Sweden (2001): 1,323.90
(No data for Italy or Norway.)
With the exceptions of France, Ireland, Spain and Portugal (and I’m suspicious of Portugal’s numbers) every other nation listed has a higher to much higher incidence of “breaking and entering.” Property crime seems rampant in Europe. How about “robbery and violent theft?”
United States: 144.98
England & Wales: 160.75
Northern Ireland: 104.08
Republic of Ireland: 38.53
The Netherlands (1998): 92.28
Sweden (2001): 95.83
Assuming this data is collected uniformly for all the nations (a big assumption) it appears the U.S. isn’t all that lawless after all. England’s rate is higher, France’s is higher still, and Spain’s is way out there. These are all considered “First World” industrialized democratic nations. Again, Sweden – straddled by Finland and Denmark, has a significantly higher crime rate than either of its Scandanavian neighbors.
And again, remember that the preponderance of criminal activity in this country is done by a tiny identifiable minority of the population – young black men. Is it racist to point out the facts? Consider this quote:
There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see it’s somebody white and feel relieved. – Jesse Jackson
Yes, that Jesse Jackson, from a U.S. News & World Report story, January 17, 1994. (I’d seen it before, but Clayton Cramer has the cite.) Even Jesse recognizes the cold hard facts.
Crime is epidemic among the population of young black men. Death by gunshot is the leading cause of death for young black men. According to this Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 6.6% of the total U.S. black male population was in prison in 1996, compared to 0.94% of the population of white males. That means that if you’re a white male, you probably don’t personally know anyone serving time, but if you’re a black male you’re quite likely to.
But we’re told that guns are the cause of our crime problems.
No, they’re not. They’re a symptom. A symptom of a much bigger problem – a problem that we aren’t addressing because to do so in any meaningful way is politically incorrect. It’s RACIST!™ to recognize the problem, dont’cha know! It’s RACIST!™ to suggest that perhaps 40+ years of making the welfare safety net a hammock has been destructive to the black family. It’s RACIST!™ to suggest that perhaps “midnight basketball” programs are a sorry joke when it comes to solving the problem of inner-city violence. It’s even RACIST!™ to suggest that the War on (some) Drugs™ has been the fuel for some of the worst violent crime the black community is plagued with. It’s RACIST!™ to suggest that the predominant inner-city black culture is killing its sons. And it’s spreading.
Sit some weekend and watch Black Entertainment Television and tell me that the overall culture being portrayed there as desireable is a good thing. (You can say much the same about MTV’s programming, too, which I do NOT find encouraging.) We’ve set up a negative feedback loop, and that loop is eating the heart out of a generation, and causing incredible carnage and waste. How can wanting to fix THAT problem be bad?
No, it’s much easier to attack guns. They’re only defended by RACISTS!™.
At the time of publishing, the CDC servers appear to be down, so fact-checking my ass using the WISQARS tools will have to wait until they come back up. WISQARS is back up. Check away.)
UPDATE – RETRACTION
As “Della” (perhaps not a real name) pointed out in my comments, the Interpol numbers for homicide in Scotland are apparently WAY wrong. The Scottish government statistics site reports the following homicide data:
1997 90 victims – rate: 1.8/100,000
1998 97 victims – rate: 1.9
1999 119 victims – rate: 2.3
2000 105 victims – rate: 2.1
2001 107 victims – rate: 2.1
I don’t know why the Interpol numbers are so different. Mea culpa. I should have back-checked the Interpol numbers but did not. Especially because I found the numbers shocking. However, this is what the Internet is good for.
This data does make suspect the other Interpol numbers. What it doesn’t do is negate the point of the article.
I will inform those people who have linked to this piece of the update, and I will do additional research.
Further update: Yup, the Interpol homicide data is apparently crap. Which makes you wonder if it’s all crap. Sweden’s homicide rate seems to be a pretty stable 1.2/100,000. Finland’s is about 3.0.
What good is internation crime data that’s unreliable?
However, I intend to leave this post up. The errors will allow those so inclined to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I still stand by the basic premise which is backed up by FBI / BoJS statistics that I have no reason to doubt.
My apologies for not fact-checking the crap out of this stuff. Mike over at Feces Flinging Monkey advised me while I was working on this:
“Different countries tabulate, and define, crime in different ways. Comparisons are very difficult.
“People lie about this stuff – a lot! Don’t trust anybody if you can’t see their data and their methods.”
Even international police organizations, it appears.
LAST UPDATE: @10:21PM 8/22/03. I’ve left the original text, but struck out most of the stuff based on known erroneous Interpol stats. I stand behind, however, these points:
The data indicates that culture is the primary defining factor in crime.
The data indicates that the preponderance of criminal behavior in the young black American male demographic seriously skews the overall criminal data in the U.S.
The response to these facts has not been an attempt to address the specific identifiable problem of crime in the black community, it has been “gun control.” And it has been – predictably – a failure.
Continuing this path will continue to be a failure.
One significant reason that the specific identifiable problem has not been addressed is “political correctness” – point out that the Emperor has no clothes and you will be branded RACIST!™ Nothing further will result.
I’d like to say this has been fun, but it hasn’t. I don’t like being in error, but sh!t happens. The question now is, will the gun control forces just keep working to disarm people who are not contributors to the crime problem and continue to avoid addressing the biggest part of the crime problem?