Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How to Lie with Numbers 

I ran across the website for the gun-grabbers over at the Brady Campaign, specifically their page on concealed-carry weapons laws in various states. Needless to say, they're trying to ban all CCW laws. And they trot out their facts and figures -- but not with out manipulating the figures. Let's look at this table from their site, reproduced below:
Year    # Murders   Legislative Action
1987 569 CCW becomes effective October 1, 1987.
1988 N/A No data available.
1989 700 After a rash of unintentional deaths of children by
firearms, the Florida legislature passes the first
Child Access Prevention Law (CAP) in the nation.
1990 588 A background check on handgun purchasers passes in
the Florida Legislature, effective October 1, 1990. A
state-wide election on a Constituional Amendment (Article
1, Section 8) for a three-day waiting period on handgun
purchasers passes by a margin of 85% to 15% effective
November 6, 1990.
1991 565 In accordance with the Constitutional Amendment, the
Florida Legislature makes it a felony to violate the
three-day waiting period.
1992 554
1993 525*
(*According to the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services,
the top cause of fatal injuries in Florida in 1993 was firearms.)
The first big lie in this table, of course, is in the top row, in the column labeled "Murders". It doesn't read "gun murders" or "murders caused only by concealed weapons". Nope. Just the lump category "murders". Never mind strangulations, stabbings, defenestrations, murder with unconcealable firearms like shotguns or murder with firearms that weren't concealed at their time of use. We just get the nice lump category. And then, conveniently, after the figure for the first year of CCW, we get... no data for the next year. The omission is telling. Why weren't their any figures for that year, when the state seems so copious in counting otherwise? Did somebody spill coffee on the data, or did the numbers show a decrease in murders, putting the lie to their entire anti-CCW argument? Without a figure, we can't tell.

1989 does show a jump in the generic "murder" category but correlation does not show causation. In fact, between 1985 and 1990, the murder rate in the entire US went up, particularly the gun murder rate for teens[1]. This was regardless of the status of CCW laws. In any event, in an apparent effort to confuse the issue and make 1989's 700 undifferentiated murders have something to do with guns, the table lists unintentional child deaths due to firearms. One can assume this means "kids who found dad's gun and killed themself or someone else with it." CCW laws have no bearing on this issue and, in fact, I doubt very few of these children were killed by guns that were being carried concealed by an adult at the time. Yes, it should be illegal to leave a gun within easy access of a child. This has nothing to do with allowing adults to carry them.

According to their data and notes, legislative efforts in October 1990 somehow magically managed to reduce the murder rate retroactively for the entire year. Or... there were no murders at all during the last three months of 1990. Or... there's no connection between the two events at all. And, indeed, the national trend fits exactly -- a sharp increase leading up to 1989, then a dip leading into 1993.

That's the point when their data stop, with the implication by footnote that all of these murders were by concealed firearm, or somesuch nonsense. And it's very interesting that their data stops when it does, because the murder rate in the US went up in 1994 and 1995 to near that high 1989 level -- and then fell like a rock over the next decade.

I do wonder why the website for an organization that is so strongly anti-gun would rely on data that's nearly fifteen years old, and why they would limit their argument to one state in a region that the Justice Department consistently shows as #2 in overall homicide rate over a period of thirty years. (The #1 area includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.)

I wonder -- but then I look at the figures and statements above, and realize it's because they're just pulling facts and correlations out of their asses.

Which is where they can shove their efforts to screw with the Second Amendment.

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