While I didn’t do the in-depth analysis you performed, I did take a look at Mass shootings to see if there was a correlation between gun laws and mass shootings.

The most generous definition of a mass shooting is used by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA). Their standard is four or more injuries caused by gunfire.

The official standard is four or more deaths, not including the perpetrator, excluding gang- or drug-related incidents and incidents where one family member kills other family members and then often commits suicide.

With this definition, the GVA reported 340 mass shootings between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.

Adjusting the data for rate per 100,000 population, which yields less dramatic numbers but is more commonly used, I found there was no relation between a state’s regulation of firearms and its rate of mass shootings.

Image for post
Image for post

Incidentally, Kentucky should also be in green. Governor Matt Bevins signed SB 150 today, making the Bluegrass State the third state to adopt permitless carry this year and the 16th state to adopt it since 2000. More than two-thirds of U.S. states allow some form of unlicensed handgun carry.

What might be a bit troubling to those wishing to find a link between mass shootings and gun ownership is the absence of Idaho and Wyoming, states where it is estimated that well over half of all households have one or more guns. In fact, looking back over the past 50 years, neither state has ever had a mass shooting of the official variety, either.

The real problem with attaching much significance to this exercise is that even 340 incidents is a minuscule sample. The states with the largest number of the GVA incidents were California and Illinois, tied at 35 apiece. Heck, 35 incidents sounds like a bad summer weekend in Chicago. We’re talking a city that racked up more than 760 murders in a single year.

Basically, any study that uses suicides as a factor to determine runs into a couple of problems. First, gun usage in suicides is declining even though the suicide rate continues to rise. This is especially evident in “red flag” states like California and Connecticut. Second, it’s not reliable because the incidence of gun suicide varies widely by demographic. White, non-Hispanic males, the most likely to commit suicide, use a gun about 60% of the time. But white, non-Hispanic females are slightly more likely to suffocate themselves, usually by hanging. Hispanic females use firearms in suicide only in about one-fifth of successful suicides.

I am not aware of any factor that would yield a fair approximation of the number of gun owners. I was tempted to use the number of active concealed-carry permits (about 17.25 million in 2018) as a proxy but that runs into the problem that some people have more than one permit and that by the end of 2018 a large number of states, including some with ownership rates believed to be among the highest in the country, don’t require a permit to carry a handgun at all. More than 41.5 million people live in Constitutional Carry states.

So we are left with trying to make judgements based on nonexistent data.

In fact, the data is not only nonexistent, it would be virtually impossible to obtain.

Even if all of the dealer records since 1938 were somehow miraculously digitized in some kind of reasonable format, it still wouldn’t include tens of thousands of perfectly serviceable firearm sold or brought back from military service prior to the Federal Firearms Act. In addition, it wouldn’t really identify the current owner of guns with recorded sales or guns that were seized by law enforcement, damaged or otherwise rendered inoperable and no longer subject to federal regulations. Certain types of firearms aren’t even subject to federal regulations now. They are not classed as firearms, even though they are completely capable of firing a projectile and inflicting serious or fatal injury, and can even be bought from online retailers for direct shipment to the purchaser.

So it’s a challenge even for a researcher without any agenda or predisposition to put a thumb on the scales, on one side or the other.

This really should be a caveat added to any study purporting to analyze gun ownership, gun usage or gun crime.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store