Saturday, November 30, 2013

Debunking "A Tale of Two Cities"

You know, now that the holidays are over, I can spend a little time clearing out my email. And what do I find? A message from my dad! Let's see what he has to say!

Aw, it's cute. It really is. I love it when unsubstantiated facts and statistical anomalies are stirred together and turn into fertilizer. And this one has tables and everything! In fact, it looks something like this.
A Tale of Two Cities

Chicago, IL Houston, TX
Population 2.7 million 2.15 million
Median HH Income $38,600 $37,000
% African-American 38.9% 24%
% Hispanic 29.9% 44%
% Asian 5.5% 6%
% Non-Hispanic White 28.7% 26%

Pretty similar until you compare the following:

Chicago, IL Houston, TX
Concealed Carry gun law no yes
# of Gun Stores 0 184 - Dedicated gun stores plus 1500 - legal places to buy guns- Walmart, K-mart, sporting goods, etc.
Homicides, 2012 1,806 207
Homicides per 100K 38.4 9.6
Avg. January high temperature (F) 31 63

Conclusion: Cold weather causes murder
Now, my dad is a reasonably smart person, so I can't assume that this is evidence of incipient Alzheimer's or anything. In fact, mostly, it looks like he just forwarded somebody else's data, without bothering to fact-check it (I'm sure most of us have relatives who do that). But since it's sitting there stinking up my inbox, I guess it deserves an answer.

First off, let's start with the fact that any time the NRA tries to claim that Chicago's "unreasonable gun laws" don't do any good, it ignores the fact that Chicago is surrounded by unreasonably loose gun laws, and anybody who wants a gun just needs to drive an hour to get someplace where they can buy one without a problem. So, you know, that part's crap - Chicago's laws have minimal effect because those laws have been nullified. Or, if you really want to look at how it works:
More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less than an hour’s drive away. Since 2008, more than 1,300 of the confiscated guns, the analysis showed, were bought from just one store, Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Ill., within a few miles of Chicago’s city limits.
Now, let's look at the statistics as presented. Assuming they're accurate (and we'll get to that in a second), remember the phrase "pretty similar until you compare the following." Because, just taking them at face value, you have a 15% difference in African American populations, and a 14% difference in Hispanic populations. Anybody who thinks those numbers are "pretty similar" either failed statistics, or never graduated high school.

But you can just feel free to pull out your Klan membership card and claim that the higher number of blacks explain the difference in the murder rate. (Trust me, the argument has been made.) Of course, you'd then also have to explain how the lower percentage of Hispanics has affected these statistics, and I'd LOVE to hear you try to argue around that corner.

But then, just for fun, let's consider the REAL facts. (You remember "facts," right? Those things Fox News has no time for?) First of all, this link here goes to a Cost of Living calculator. Now, I want you to do a little homework (calm down, it isn't difficult). Compare the costs of living between Houston and Chicago.

Done? Did you notice that tricky little 22% percent (average) difference in the cost of living? So that a person making $78,000 in Houston would need to earn $100,000 to live in the same style in Chicago? Hmmm... I wonder if that has any effect?

But, you know, those numbers in the chart still seem a little off. And statistical analysis is probably a real pain when you're working with incorrect data, isn't it?

So I went looking, and it seems that there's this thing the census bureau does, and it's called the American Community Survey. But those are all these tables, filled with numbers and stuff, and I don't want to make anybody's head hurt worse than it probably does. So I found a website that extracts numbers from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, and you know, it's funny. There seems to be a discrepancy here. Just a slight one.

Because, as it turns out, the median household income for the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet Illinois metro area was $59,261 in 2012. Not $38,600, as claimed. Wow, that's a little bit of a difference, isn't it?

And look here: the median household income for the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Texas metro area was $55,910 in 2012. Not $37,000. That's kind of interesting, too.

But, you know what else? I seem to remember just a couple of months ago, when it was big news that Chicago was the "murder capital of the USA." But, funny thing. The number of homicides wasn't 1,806, like that cute little table claimed. Seems like it was more like 500 or so. Isn't that odd?

But let's check that, shall we? How about we look at the FBI's official data? And we poke around for a while, and we see that, sure enough, the number under "Murder and non-negligent manslaughter" for Chicago was exactly 500. Kind of a round number - you know, the kind of number that might stick in your head if you had any interest in actual facts, instead of... well, I don't want to call it "fecal matter," because that would be rude. But still...

So they were... well, maybe they were off by a little bit. Roughly 1306 homicides off, to be exact: they were wrong by almost three times the actual figure! I wonder how they did with the number of homicides in Houston? Well, right there, they were MUCH closer! Houston had 217 homicides, instead of the 207 in the table! That's so much closer! I mean, it's still wrong, but it's so much better than they've been doing!

But still, it seems like a lot more people have been killed in Chicago than in Houston, doesn't it? That's just weird. Is there some sort of difference between the Chicago mobster and the Texas cowboy that could account for these numbers? I wonder if anybody has looked into this problem?
Efforts to compare the strictness of gun laws and the level of violence across major American cities are fraught with contradiction and complication, not least because of varying degrees of coordination between local and state laws and differing levels of enforcement. In New York City, where homicides and shootings have decreased, the gun laws are generally seen as at least as strict as Chicago's, and the state laws in New York and many of its neighboring states are viewed as still tougher than those in and around Illinois. Philadelphia, like cities in many states, is limited in writing gun measures that go beyond those set by Pennsylvania law. Some city officials there have chafed under what they see as relatively lax state controls...

"The way the laws are structured facilitates the flow of those guns to hit our streets," Garry F. McCarthy, the Chicago police superintendent, said in an interview, later adding, "Chicago may have comprehensive gun laws, but they are not strict because the sanctions don't exist."
So, really, even if you used accurate numbers and factored in socioeconomic data, the numbers wouldn't really mean a thing, would they? It's almost as if this email was comparing two completely unrelated things, isn't it?

I wonder if whoever put together the original chart knew that when he wrote it?


Scooter said...

Nice write up on the Chicago v. Houston stats. Someone just posted it in view of my Facebook feed and 1806 murders seemed a bit Snopes-worthy, so I hopped out to the FBI tables to look and saw 500 was more accurate. When I did the search for the FBI tables, your post came up as well. Thanks! I didn't post it as a response on Facebook - I just didn't feel up to the pointless discussion about why bother to inflate something you could misconstrue using existing numbers - but it made me feel better to see your post and read something sensible after seeing nonsense.

Nameless Cynic said...

Hey, no problem. I'm here to help, after all.

Dawn Croft said...

I just spent half an hour trying to research that STUPID chart. I didn't get to your post until just now. Thank you so much. I knew it was ridiculous, but someone posted it on MY facebook page too and trying to refute it was going to take awhile. Unlike my friend "Scooter" I am going to post your blog and incur the wrath of my cousin. We need to start fighting for facts, no matter what our political disposition. Thanks again!!

Michael Corbett said...

What is interesting is that there are multiple versions of the chart out there with different murder numbers. There is one on Brietbart that has 506 and 207. I got one sent to me with the same numbers as yours. There is one on that gives them as 806 and 207. has 506 and 207.

Alan Moor said...

So even if you're right the number of murders rate in Chicago (500) is still twice that of Houston (217). Also, your snarky cost of living comparison just makes you look like a smart-azz. You were looking at family median income, while the original figures are individual median income. The resulting ratio is the same, though. In any case, I don't see how disarming law abiding citizens helps deter crime.

Nameless Cynic said...

Well, gee, Alan. While I'm unarguably guilty of being a smart-azz, I thought I was clear enough in those last three sentences. Let's see if I can reword it in a way that makes more sense to you.

Comparing the murder rates of Chicago and Houston, using incorrect data and without factoring in socioeconomic data, is entirely useless. You're comparing apples and turkey legs. And trying to claim that the "restrictive" gun laws in Chicago are even a factor in the whole picture is blatantly, openly stupid: it's a tactic that would only make sense to a complete moron, or a gun nut (or both, of course).

Incidentally, if you scroll back up, all the numbers given are household median income - that's what "HH" means. Might want to work on that reading comprehension there, Bucky.

On the other hand, if you want to see a free society with gun laws that haven't been neutered, look at Australia. They had some seriously restrictive gun laws put in place some years back. The results are interesting.

Melbourne, for example, has about two thirds the number of homicides, per capita, that New York City does. That does not, of course, factor in any of the socioeconomic data I mentioned. But feel free to explain that little discrepancy.

Gary said...

Hey, can't anyone accept this for just the humor it was intended? Do all have to get so serious?

Nameless Cynic said...

Well, you know, Gary, I could do that. Except that it isn't just intended as humor, it's intended as propaganda. And it's wide-spread propaganda at that. So, just to be fair (and balanced), somebody should really kick it until it bleeds, just to see what's going on in there.

Johnny Genlock said...

In the spirit of kicking it until it bleeds, Nameless Cynic, how about some true forensics on this chart? Who altered the original, if an original can even be determined? My point is, going from the FBI's 500 for Chicago versus 217 for Houston; that in and of itself is a meaningful spread. Who is to say that the 1,800 number was altered in the spirit of cross-burning one's own lawn; i.e., to later disprove and make gun rights advocates look foolish? Let's pull this issue out from the morass of socio-economic-racial wizardry and talk about the real point it makes. In Houston law-abiding citizens can and do carry firearms. In Chicago law-abiding citizens can't. Is there any other issue? Or we can continue to look at the distraction caused by some pinhead fudging the numbers. I'd say when you do a roundup of the likely suspects gun grabbers belong in the lineup. It's very smart agitprop to divert attention away from the obvious disparity between these two metroplexes. Lawful carry works. It reduced crime in Kennesaw, GA, where every home was required to have a gun, . . . until the latest shooting spree at the local Fed-X corporate gun-free zone. Gun-free zones endanger lives.

Nameless Cynic said...

I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but some days I can't help myself.

Who altered the chart? Probably somebody with the same agenda as your own, who didn't think the difference looked big enough. Hardly matters, does it?

But you should probably work on that reading comprehension, though. The reason that this is an idiotic chart is explained fairly clearly in those last two italicized paragraphs.

Feel free to try to explain why Chicago, without loosening up their terrible, dreadful gun laws, has the largest drop in homicide rates among the 10 leading cities between 2012 and 2013? Or why the violent crime rate in Houston is more than double that of Austin, despite both being in the same state, with the same gun laws?

Or why, in continuing the comparison between Chicago and Houston, we find that Houston, despite all those pretty, shiny guns, is leading Chicago in rates of aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, and general property crimes?

Perhaps the reason can be found in the FBI's own warning against using this data to compare cities or law enforcement agencies, because it's a simplistic and stupid comparison that doesn't take any of the disparate causes for crime into account.

And hey, as long as you brought up Kennesaw, GA, maybe you can explain what effect their gun law had on crime in that town. The crime rate before their mandatory gun law was already lower than in the rest of Georgia, and if anything, was going up until 2007. An unbiased look at the statistics would realize that the law had absolutely no effect on anything, except to give people like you a chubby.

So, since the FBI is happy to explain that crime rate comparisons are simplistic and stupid, what does it say about you that you feel it's important to make the comparison?

Michael Manning said...

It is self evident that the story is promoting an idea or cause. That is the very definition of propaganda. That the author took literary license with the demographic facts is a diversion from the fact that Illinois politicians cling to the idea that banning guns is a panacea for homicide, but when not unsuccessful blame neighboring states for not sharing their illusion. Yes the Chicago and Houston homicide rates and each states gun control laws are different but that does not equal cause and effect. The simple fact is when committed people fight with one another and some die in the process. If Chicago wants to change that they need to start by finding out what the fight is about.

Nameless Cynic said...

Gee, Mike, I'm not really clear what you're trying to say. Yes, the story is obviously propaganda. It is also openly, logically flawed - as you point out, you cannot pull cause and effect from this situation. But the propagandists want to - that's why they put out this silly damned thing.

A functional gun control law would, in fact, prevent homicides. Look at Australia if you need evidence of that. The problem is the lax gun laws all around them.

Michael Manning said...

Functional gun laws prevent homicides you say! Chicago’s homicides are greater that of a comparable city with liberal gun laws, some blame neighboring states. Ok, assume neighbors copied Illinois gun laws but their neighbors didn’t. Then let us make Illinois laws uniform all across the U.S.. All better?
Well we didn’t do that while in the past decades, national homicide rates declined as gun rights dramatically have expanded. The point is homicide is an illegal act between people fighting over something. In Chicago the best explanation is simply what’s reported in the news. Gang warfare over drug distribution and retribution for the casualties including the innocents caught up in that struggle.

The Australian example for successful reduction in homicide rates using gun control law is just as flawed as the Chicago / Houston comparison. To claim AZ & or UK gun laws have a major impact reducing homicide rates, I expect an intellectually honest person would say that is risky business.

Nameless Cynic said...

Sorry, Mike. Once you you get your reading comprehension up, then we can work on your understanding of statistics.

Comparing Australia and US homicide rates is accurate in that you can make a direct comparison based on overall gun and gun laws. It's a snapshot of an entire culture, not of an individual subculture taken out of context.

Feel free to explain why the United States is unique in the world for their murder rate. Every other civilized country has a handle on it, whereas the US has a murder rate only equalled by third-world countries. Why is that?

Yes, homicide rates are down in the United States. But that's like saying that the flood waters are down, but we're still submerged. Once our intentional homicide rate isn't equal to Yemen's, maybe you'll have a point.

Why is it that studies show that, for every 1% increase in proportion of household gun ownership, firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%? Why does a study out of Texas A&M show that "stand your ground" laws have no effect on crime, but increase homicide rates by 7-9%?

Michael Manning said...

An accurate snapshot of an entire culture you say? Ok, I can accept that if the gun laws and homicide rates are reflection of the cultural and the laws and rates are different the cultures are different they cannot be honestly compared. There exists a gun culture in the US that does not in the AZ or the UK.

The difference between Chicago and Houston homicide rates, one could also include NY City and La is far more closely related to effective crime control than a gun control law.

I would point out nations with higher rates and with strict gun control, our neighbor to the south comes to mind, but since the definition of a civilized nation is subjective, expect you would reject the offering because it doesn't fit your theme

When homicide rates her are trending downward most would say that’s good! You say not enough! Homicide is a crime; some choose to fight with gun the most technologically advanced for that purpose and it is more often a fight.

The referenced studies suggest people either got a gun to commit homicide or because they had one they didn't have to use a club or edged weapon to do so. The way you seem to think about the gun ownership is if no gun, there is no motive to commit homicide although they are unrelated.

Texas does have a castle doctrine, but not stand your ground like FL although neither are about crime prevention but about defense of self, defense of others or in defense of one's property.

I noticed less than civil energy in your opening reply but I believe just your logic is flawed, since you aren't likely to change, thanks for the exchanges. I think we are done with this subject.

Nameless Cynic said...

Really? You still haven't answered why America has a higher murder rate than any other civilized country.

You're going to try to claim that America is just naturally more violent than Australia and walk away? Australia, which was colonized by thieves, murderers, rapists and whores?

And you want to talk about my flawed logic?

DC said...

On the other hand....this in depth article on how Chicago actually compiles statistics can throw everything into doubt.
As an aside, when you say we're happy to hear from opposing view points, but no "bile".... isn't calling people of opposing political views "teabagging friends" kind of a double standard?

Nameless Cynic said...

First question: So you're saying that questions regarding the accuracy of the statistics makes you question whether the statistical comparisons are accurate? How's that?

Second question: "Teabag" was originally coined by the teabaggers, until their little joke was coopted by the left. So, sorry, I don't see your point here, either.

Or to put it another way: Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes. (Walt Whitman)

John McCullough said...

Overall I think you have a little too much time on your hands, I wish I could say the same - honestly. Regardless, your fact checking may shed some light on erroneous data that people forward around, which is irritating to most of us (the forwarding, that is). But end the end of the day, it's not that Houston has concealed carry that is an overall deterrent, the criminals learn about areas in Houston where a high population of people not only keep guns in their homes, but carry them with them everywhere. When they hop in their car to go do "bad stuff", they seem to steer away from those population areas, some criminals that may not be that smart or too wasted to use their brain may go to places where people can and will protect themselves and they often do indeed get shot (which is probably mixed in with the shooting and homicide data in Houston). And all data aside, if the deterrent impacts the statistic by only 1 person that happens to be one of my family members, I like the odds. BTW - Just because we carry doesn't mean we are gun slinging vigilante. I hope I never, ever, have to take a human life, I would be scared for life, but if confronted with a serious threat against my family or myself then there is a good chance the bad guy won't walk away.

Nameless Cynic said...

Well, John, if I had time on my hands, I'd probably post every week at least. Maybe more.

In the meantime, since you're worried about your family, I should probably point out that the NRA has prevented anyone from compiling information on how many children are involved in accidental shootings. But we do know that more guns are involved in suicides than homicides.

Oh, and guns in the home are 22 times more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, homicides, or suicide attempts. For every one time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally
justifiable shooting, there were 4 unintentional shootings, 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

Michael Manning said...

Assuming your facts are true, they do seem to demonstrate the people are not capable of responsibility possessing firearms. Those that advocate evermore strict limits on legal gun ownership ignore root causes, of the bad things that happen, they use to justify that ideological position. You previously cited Australian restrictive gun laws in a positive light. Mexico has been able to completely eviscerate mexicans constitutional right to armed defense regulating citizens defenseless while a war rages around them between government and heavily armed criminal element. That environment is the result of high profit trafficing in an illegal substance not lax gun laws. Oh wait if only the U. S. Passed strict gun controls like its drug laws drug cartels would have to buy their guns on the black market. Oh darn, they already do that too! All that is offthe point. The only real issue is, Do the benifits of the right of armed defense justify the cost or not! That is a matter of ones opinion.

Nameless Cynic said...

You honestly think that is a reasonable comparison? Two stable, first-world countries with similar backgrounds, vs a slightly (very slightly) bolstered third world country?

Reaching pretty hard there, aren't you?

Unknown said...

Michael Manning, you seem to misinterpret the most important stat here. That is that you can legally buy just outside Chicago city limits. This is not an IL vs TX argument. If you can buy just outside Chicago, there is nothing preventing you from bringing it into Chicago...thereby nullifying the laws on the books in Chicago. Make sense now?

Romeena said...

I'm an old gal (76), living in Texas. I own a handgun, a .45, and I can use it. I carry it when I travel (driving) and the rest of the time it sits on my nightstand, loaded. OK, that's just background.

It all seems pretty simple to me. If I'm a deranged individual, bent on shooting up a school, I'd be delighted to know that the school was a gun-free zone. No resistance there! If I decide I want to shoot up a mall or a theater because somebody hurt my feelings, I would be so happy knowing that no one would have the means to stop me. If I'm a burglar, or a rapist, determined to invade someone's life, I'd love it if the statistical likelihood of my chosen victim being armed was very low. Worst of all, if I'm an Army psychiatrist and a closet Muslim extremist at Ft. Hood, bent on carrying out jihad against my fellow soldiers, I'm just elated that the Army has (for some ridiculous reason) decided to disarm those soldiers when on base. I can walk into a room and murder 13 soldiers and injure 32 more before an armed civilian police officer employed by the Army can take me down. If my fellow soldiers had been armed, I probably wouldn't have killed but one or two before somebody nailed me.

I'm sure that to someone, somewhere, the notion that you can stop violence by outlawing guns makes sense, but that's a very scary idea to me. It's an old, worn-out saying, but it's true. (Sometimes being true is how some sayings get to be old and worn-out.) "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." I think that making guns illegal will work out just about as well as making drugs illegal, and we all know about that. Any twelve year old kid in middle school can tell you where to buy drugs!

One question for the no-guns crowd. Would you be willing to post a sign on your front porch, one that reads, "GUN-FREE AREA. No guns on this property."

Nameless Cynic said...

So, good to know that you buy into every bullshit argument made by the NRA. I could go point-by-point on you (where has gun control worked? Pretty much every other industrialized nation on the planet), but in this case, I just have one question.

What in the name of god does that little rant of yours have to do with the subject at hand? Scroll up to the top of the page - the post is about the mind-numbingly uninformed use of unrelated statistics to paint a false narrative.

Is this just some canned "response" you drop whenever you see anything remotely related to gun control?

Romeena said...

No, dear, it's not a canned response. Actually, I don't make a habit if posting on these argumentative sites. This one just caught my eye as I was trying to verify the somewhat suspicious statistics on that chart. As for my comment not being related to the original question, do you really find that to be unusual, or worthy of your little scold? And exactly what, by your definition, qualifies my politely worded post as a "rant"? I think when it comes to rants, you must hold the patent. But then, it's your blog, so you can be as overbearing and obnoxious as you wish, I suppose.

Actually, this little exchange perfectly exemplifies the reason why I rarely visit such sites. They always get off the track and devolve into name-calling and bathroom words. Don't bother responding, because I'm gone. I have more to do than swap insults with you.

Nameless Cynic said...

So, your answer is that it had nothing to do with the subject at hand, but I shouldn't be rude when I point that out?

Good to know. Thanks for checking in.

Michael Manning said...

When some people choose not to own a firearm they just dont buy one, but many others that choose not to own one, in their moral superiority try to stop everyone from making a choice. When the reasons people make those buying choices are put aside one thing that remains is what these two groups think of one another. The first accepts everyones choice to own a firearm or not, the latter contemptuous of those that do strives to use the power of government to force overyone to adopt their position. This a classic left liberal tactic although a minority one is not limited to gun control.

Nameless Cynic said...

When some people choose to own a firearm, they just buy one, but many others that choose to own one, in their moral superiority, try to stop everyone from making a choice to be safe. When the reasons people make those buying choices are put aside, one thing that remains is what these two groups think of one another.

The first accepts that a firearm is a deadly weapon, and many perhaps there should be some simple safety measures in place; the latter, contemptuous of simple common sense, strives to use the power of government to force everyone to adopt their position; they also tend to paint anyone who disagrees with them as either "weak" or somehow unamerican.

This is a classic rightwing whackjob tactic; although a minority one, it is not limited to gun control.

Scott Penn said...

Just curious mr namelesscynic, have you ever been held up at gunpoint? It's an experience you would never want to relive.

Nameless Cynic said...

I'm curious, Scotty. Why do you ammosexuals automatically assume I'm anti-gun?Been around guns my whole life. 21 years in the military. 2 Middle East tours. Still have my dad's .45.

What did your mom tell you about making assumptions, Scotty?

Seth Trent said...

The US is not even in the top 25 countries as having the highest murder rate...

Uncadon said...

Australia has a gun ban. Not restrictive gun control laws. 2/3 the number of NY homocides is 66%. Still a large percentage, not small. Ad hominem attacks are often warranted and well deserved. It's the ad hominem fallacies you need to avoid. Numbers never tell the whole story or even the recent history of anything. They can be manipulated, misused, misinterpreted, etc. The point remains (and plays out the same in many other places) that Houston is safer due to civilian gun owners. Like it or not, a bullet is faster than 911.

Nameless Cynic said...

Weird. I'm looking for a list of "Safest Cities" that includes Houston; it doesn't seem to exist.

"We can make our city safer by arming every toothless hick and every raging drunk! How can this go wrong?

Funny, I thought that was one of the stupidest things I'd read in a while. Then I glanced back up, and saw the comment right before it, by Seth Trent.

"Gee, I wonder if I can list 25 Third World countries, many of them in conflict zones, with a worse murder rate than America?"

Way to lower the bar, Seth. "We're not the worst! As long as we're ahead of Somalia, we're OK!"

You win, Seth. THAT is the most ridiculous argument I've heard in a while.

Randall Winn said...

Just curious Scott Penn - are you suggesting that when a bad guy points a gun at you, he'll let you pull out your concealed weapon and blaze away?

Cuz I suppose it could happen. The important thing is to ask politely: "Please Mr. Holdupman, let me reach into my pocket and pull out my gun. Alright?"


Unknown said...

This kind of comparison has been going around for a while now and LIKE MOST GUN PROPAGANDA IIT’S A FABRICATION. There were NOT 1,806 homicides in Chicago in 2012. The FBI official statistics are 500 homicides. Chicago’s official figure is 507 homicides. Bad figures, but a fraction of what’s stated. Comparing Chicago to Houston, the crime stats look relatively comparable; Chicago has a higher murder rate, but their rate of violent crime is nearly the same (.97% vs .95%). Houston had a higher property crime rate than Chicago (4.14% vs 4.90%). The number of gun stores is irrelevant, since you can simply drive out of the city limits to buy all of the guns you want.

It’s hard to get good gun data, since the NRA strong arms Congress into blocking government data collection, but the Brady Bill does provide a statistical source. Evaluating the number of permits approved in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) from1999 to 2008, we can see the rate of guns going into a state. Surprisingly ILLINOIS HAS A HIGHER GUN PERMIT RATE PER CAPITA THAN TEXAS (31% vs 24%)! California is much lower than both (10%).

Here is a corrected chart.

I’ve also added a comparison between San Diego to similarly sized Dallas (BTW, I’ve lived in San Diego, Dallas and Houston). California with its stricter gun control laws has much lower crime rates.

There is a great analysis of gun deaths available here:

Following are some highlights.

-- Moroz finds a close relationship between city unemployment and murder by gun. The correlation between city unemployment at the overall rate of gun deaths is considerable (.55), and the correlation between it and gun-related murders is even higher (.72).

-- Poverty is a substantial factor in gun deaths by metro, as it was in our previous state-level analysis. The percentage of a metro’s population below the poverty line is significantly associated with all three types of gun death — homicide (.45), suicide (.35), and the overall rate (.49).

-- More affluent metros have lower rates of all forms of gun death. That said, economic advantage — measured as per capita income — plays a bigger role in moderating the overall rate of gun death (-.55) and that for gun-related suicide (-.64) than for gun-related murders (-.32).

-- A metro’s share of high-tech industry is negatively associated with overall gun deaths (-.49), gun-related suicides (-.53), and homicides (-.32). Conversely, metros with higher shares of blue-collar working class jobs experience higher rates of all three, with positive correlations to overall gun deaths (.52), suicides (.49), and murders (.37).

-- Race, unfortunately and tragically, factors into gun death at the metro level. The share of the population that is black is positively related to both the overall rate of gun death (.56) and even more so with gun-related homicides (.72). The pattern is similar for the share of the population that is comprised of young black males which is also positively related to the overall rate of gun death (.55) and murder by gun (.70). That said, we find no significant association between any type of gun death and the share of the population that is Hispanic.

-- The importance of gun control cannot be minimized. The state level is the appropriate level to examine this. And our previous state level analysis found gun deaths to be significantly lower in states with stricter gun control laws. We found substantial negative correlations between the rate of gun deaths and states that ban assault weapons, require trigger locks, and mandate safe storage requirements for guns.

Liberal Conclusion: More guns means more gun deaths

Conservative Conclusion: Facts lie!

Michael Harvey said...


I found this while doing research for myself. Clever conservatives! They know that their voters are ignorant, and most likely to pass the info on without actually checking the data. When it comes to gun control, this simple realization made me sick... The moment it was "okay" for children to be slaughtered by guns is the day that this country will never back stricter gun control policies. I am referring to Columbine, Sandy Hook, those two teens who were gunned down recently without any provocation by police, and so many, many, many more... It's sad. Not even the christian republicans are moved by the death of a child...

Daniel Carlucci said...

Silly, apparently you had no clue that Columbine had armed guards. 2 of the troops in Chattanooga had guns on them. Many many examples of this. Wow, you have absolutely no clue how long soldiers have not been armed on base do you. Guess you also don't know what Republican President put additional limits on soldiers carrying guns on base. Perhaps you forgot? Of course authorized troops can and do carry, but it is clear you don't know that either.

Solstice1319 said...

Raw data is just that, not precise in any way. Homicides include persons killed by all weapons, not just guns. Total homicides include criminals killed by police in the line of duty. They also include innocents killed by police "in the line of duty." They include criminals killed by innocents. I wonder what the stats would be if we removed those criminals killed by police and killed by innocents. In Houston, a lot of us have weapons and some have killed criminals. In Chicago I guess it is illegal to own a gun so only criminals killed by police in the line of duty would be eliminated from the total.

Fred Miller said...

So typical blaming someone else, in this case the surrounding areas gun laws, for your problems. Given their way they could extend this to the whole country needing unconstitutional gun laws. And the blog requirement "Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author" shows the author doesn't believe in free speech either. I'm sure you will not publish this but now you know I know. What an ass you are.

mensurationist said...

Hey, Australian here.

One of the key issues that tends to get forgotten in the arguments about "when you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns" is that by far the most dangerous gun to a law-abiding citizen, the one that is most likely to take your life or some other innocent's life by your hand, is your own gun, is the one in your home.

Of course the criminals still have guns. That's not the point. My neighbour doesn't have a gun. Noone on my street does. That's our definition of gun safety.

Mick said...

Exactly Randall, you need to have at least 5 seconds warning to get your firearm out, cocked and aimed, most assailants, unless they are really dumb catch their victims by surprise.

The comparison is rather crazy, to compare one city with another in a gun crazy country is a little absurd, comparing London with Houston in 2012, London has low levels of gun ownership, only for sporting purposes, has three times the population and half the number of homicides.

So what factors lead to increased numbers of homicides? Firstly of course firearm proliferation, its arguably much harder to kill somebody by stabbing or strangulation, people tend to fight back.

I believe that social inequality leads to high crime rates, the US has the highest levels of inequality, social mobility is disappearing, the recent report by pew said that social mobility is much worse than expected. People with no chance of getting out of their situation lose hope and become desperate.

In terms of the comparison between Chicago and Houston, 22% of people in Chicago live beneath the poverty line whereas 14% of people in Houston, Chicago has 50% higher unemployment too. Houston has much lower population density which seems to be linked to crime rates.

Nameless Cynic said...

Oh, no, Fred Miller. There are many, many other reasons I'm an ass.

Incidentally, you should probably look up the legal concept of "free speech." I'm not a government, so it doesn't really apply here.

(Also, although I realize that you don't really care about things like "facts" and "reality," I ended up moderating the comments because of a couple of particularly creepy stalkers.)

RD said...

So I am finding the whole Australian comparison interesting. As you say, Chicago's gun laws are practically useless since it's neighboring states don't have the same kind of laws. How are the Southern states going to be different if they border Mexico? Do you have that one figured out as well? And please don't say build a wall, because that is in humane against illegal aliens.

Brandon Fry said...

I agree with you but your level of snark makes it difficult to read any of this.

Matt Harris said...

Seriously.. what is it with people disrespecting this elderly lady? Can you not make a more diplomatic point

Nameless Cynic said...

Matt Harris

Why, no. I can't.

Scroll to the top of the page. Read that. I'm talking about the bullshit abuse of statistics by the ammosexuals.

Now, scroll down to her little rant. Which, like so many of the tiny-minded gun nuts here, are trying to derail the conversation, away from statistics and reality, and into "But ever'body needs a gun! Because... because Freedom! And Murika!

I'm getting older myself. Age isn't something to respect - there's a lot of old people out there. And some of them are pretty fucking stupid.

Age is just a matter of surviving. Brains are worth respecting.

Nameless Cynic said...

Brandon Fry: Tough. I tend to start sarcastic, and the level of snark rises as the weight of the available stupidity increases.

Nameless Cynic said...

RD: There's a good chance you're a troll, but I'll give it a shot.

First of all, you're starting from a position of "We can't fix the whole problem, so why do anything?" Think about that for a second. If you can't completely fix the problem, don't even try? With that attitude, nothing will ever get done.

Now, more reality: yes, there are guns smuggled from Mexico. In 2013 (just a few months before this post was originally published), University of San Diego researchers, working with the Igarape Institute in Brazil, discovered that probably 253,000 weapons per year are smuggled across the US border. But here's the thing.

They're being smuggled INTO MEXICO.

A lot of people like to lie about that, but the guns are going south. And that's only 2.2% of the gun sales inside America. Almost 98% of the guns sold don't go wandering into Mexico, but remain in the States.

More little facts that the NRA wants to lie about.

Fred Miller said...

So since guns are the problem with all the murdering going on in the world lets just ban them all. Fat chance. And since it seems cop like to murder people too (read the news) they need not have them either, like the cops in London, a city that has been mentioned by another as having a low murder rate. Wait a minute, isn't London have like a pretty much homogeneous population as to race? Maybe we need to separate the races too. Maybe that's a problem too. And lets make everyone have the same amount of income no matter where they work if they even do. That will fix the monetary dis[parity. Seem like a hell of a slippery slope to a pre-civil war communist state to me.

Michael Corbett said...

No, London is not a pretty much homogeneous population as to race.

Nameless Cynic said...

Why do you like throwing out extremes? Did I say "ban" at any point? So you're either a liar or a moron.

I'm going to go with "moron," since you obviously don't have any idea what the English population looks like. You could've even googled that before you just crapped out a stupid statement, but no. Couldn't be bothered.

And you know, I'm getting bored with the random gun nuts puking up talking points here.

Nameless Cynic said...

So, in the last week, I've deleted about 20 comments, mostly without reading them. 4 of them were from one guy: the first was a long, rambling, badly written screed about gun grabbers and fighting back, and the other 3 complaining that I hadn't posted the first one.

I don't know what right-wing blog has linked here, but I'm going to embargo all comments here until the trolls go back to sleep.

Sorry for any sane humans who want to comment.

The Ruiner said...

Great work. Thank you for taking the time to illuminate this topic.

Nameless Cynic said...

Been quiet for a while, except for that one. ↑

Let's see what happens.

Chris said...

Another statistic that is mentioned is the population....while the cities proper are close in population, their metro areas are quite different. Houston 6 million and Chicago 10 million.

Bignevermo said...

I love it when the nutters go straight to..."banning guns" and how there is a LOT of misinformation spewing from is it the news and others in the political scene can lie with impunity? Like this and other issues(Planned parenthood)... guns are NOT banned in Chicago... they even have CCW permits available....but no, they are banned there. SMFH...I love it when these trolls always think that people who want regulation or reject unfettered access to guns are always labeld as "gun grabbers'. the fringe gun community has a big loudspeaker and they are led by the NRA and they have turned around on gun control issues... the Mulford Act is case in point... back then they were FOR gun control...idiots!

Sustainability Guy said...

I didn't have time to read Each and Every Comment, but a big issue which seems to be a bit more critical than some might think even if most of the data is true, has to do with the ratio of density of the populations, something on the order of 15 Houston to 44 Chicago per unit of square space. That's pretty significant.

Leadfoot said...

NamelessCynic, I think I love you. THANK YOU for compiling this. I have shared it with my father, who may be the same man as your father. Ugh. Eff you, Fox News.

Iceblogger said...

Interesting and thought provoking. One note: you commented that there is a 14% difference in African American Populations between the two cities . I don't know much about statistics myself, but you cannot take a percentage of one number and compare it to a percentage of another number. You need to extract the data, simply by using the total populatiin times the percent of African American populations for each then calculate the difference. by my numbers the African American population between the two city's has a 49% difference. But again what's the difference if all the data is flawed or tampered with. My guess is every single persons analysis is flawed here and we should start over, or crawl back into our little bunkers and reload.

crkennedy1 said...

Nameless Cynic, I find it interesting that you think gun violence would somehow be lessened in Chicago if gun availability was lessened in surrounding communities. I have no doubt those "gun toting", "nameless" communities that you refer to have much lower gun violence (yes, dare I say communities north of Chicago... even colder. - there goes that theory).
Your conclusions are so flawed, they barely merit a response. Oh, wait, maybe Houston's gun violence is also lower because they're surrounded by communities that have strict gun laws?

Nameless Cynic said...

I probably shouldn't open this back up for comments, but your reading comprehension is so low I've just got to mention it.

Is that what I said, you brainless, knuckle-dragging ammosexual? Or did I point out what a stupid, nonsensical comparison that was?

Go look for a night school, moron. I'm sure they have a Remedial Literacy course you can take.

Bignevermo said...

I dont think that one issue about the similarities or differences of these two cities is being discussed. Houston size is about 3 times that of Chicago, so you have the same(almost) amount of people in a far more cramped enthronement in Chicago and I imagine a lot more gang activity because for it, the turf for each gang is going to overlap and killings ensue...oh and Houston's murder rate went up about 13% in 2014

Sustainability Guy said...

Don't blame CrKennedy, blame Fox News for teaching him the fine art of reading only the words or sentences that justify your opinion. Just the other day, I saw something from a good friend who used Breitbart (I call it BrainFart) to try to convey that climate change doesn't exist because Antarctica is accumulating snow, and they even referenced a NASA article. Problem was, if they had read 3 paragraphs into the 10 paragraph article instead of 2, they would have noticed that the anomaly did nothing to help explain the existing conditions apparently elsewhere that had INCREASED the total amount of sea level rise. My favorite is: Well, the temperatures in (name a random place somewhere in the middle of the ocean) haven't increased at all. Not even worth my time to re-teach them the meaning of the World Average Temperature.

Sustainability Guy said...

Bigverno: I pointed out the population concentration differences. 11 or 12 in Houston to 44 in Chicago.

Bignevermo said...

so i see sustain! :)

Scott Ehredt said...

Fact: WITHOUT GUNS our murder rate in the US is appalling. We strangle and beat and stab and kick and punch and drown and poison and club each other to death at a rate many times higher than most civilized countries. We don't have a gun problem. We have a violence problem. And it will continue as long as long as agenda-driven and moronic arguments like these continue to keep us from discussing the real roots of the problem.

Nameless Cynic said...

More accurately, I'd say we have both. But is it worse than other countries? Doubtful - it depends on the metric you use.

With gun restrictions making it harder to obtain private weapons in the UK, violent crimes involving guns have greatly decreased. The number of total violent crimes, however, is almost double that of the US. Of those crimes, only 19% even involve a weapon, and only 5% of those involve a firearm. That means that of you’re roughly 1/100 chance of being involved in a violent crime in Britain and Wales in any given year, you have roughly a 1/10,000 chance of being in a violent crime involving a gun.

Alternately, in the US your chances of being involved in a violent crime are less than 1/250. Of those involved with violent crimes, however, you have greater than a 1/10,000 chance of being involved in a violent crime involving a gun. In a country with less than half the violent crime, you have a greater chance of being the victim of a violent crime involving a gun.

Unknown said...

This is well done. One would do well to tuck your comment away for the next time their gun nut relative pulls this garbage comparison out. However, while you plotted out the dots, you didn't quite connect them. I live in Chicago, and violent crime (not to mention murder) is basically nonexistent. Then again, it's overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly affluent, and economic opportunities are abundant. If your chicken and egg are minorities and crime, you're likely to come to conservative conclusions. Factor in the photo-chickens of segregation, poverty, and systemically disadvantaged communities, and you're closer to the real problem. Liberal (allegedly) agendas haven't necessarily helped this situation, but the conclusion these gun-humping lunatics come to is just way, way off-base.

babamaria said...

Thanks. This was just posted on my feed n I was trying to fact check n found your blog.very helpful

Rede2fly said...

A recent NBC poll found that Democratic voters fear guns while Republican voters fear terrorists. Using the CDC data from 2012, the likelihood of being murdered by a firearm in the US was 1 in 28 000. But that is a deceiving number because 80% of all murders happened to men.
If you are a black man, your chance is 10x greater or 1 in 2800.
If you are a white man your chance of being murdered by firearm is 1 in 37,000
And if you are a woman, your chance of being murdered by firearm is 1 in 100,000.

There were a total of 11,208 murders by firearm in 2012.
There were 33,561 deaths due to MVAs.
In 2014, over 3,300 people lost their lives to texting drivers and another 400,000 were injured.

Unknown said...

So you are saying that making guns illegal doesn't affect the use of guns used in crime, that criminals will still find a way to get guns..... interesting

Nameless Cynic said...

Wow, Gene (oh, sorry, you're going by "Unknown," aren't you?), your reading comprehension is REALLY low, isn't it? You should work on that.

Nameless Cynic said...

Feel free to adjust your math for the following stats:
95% of American households own at least one car.
32% of American households own at least one gun.

Which means Americans are STILL killed disproportionately by guns, huh?

Math isn't that hard. But I guess it's harder than spewing talking points.

Rede2fly said...

As you've surmised, I'm not very bright, so perhaps you could explain the relationship between homes with guns (Self-reported) and gun deaths?

Are people with guns in their homes shooting their neighbors? Each other?

How exactly is that pertinent to anything?

All of the data I posted is directly from the CDC website for 2012. They list the top 10 vectors for death each year and firearms have never made it to the list. In 2012, murder by firearm came in at #18.

I'm not trying to defend illegal access to weapons. I'm trying to establish a dialog of intelligent people so that we might come to an agreement on what needs to be done to reduce access to weapons by those who should not have them.

Bignevermo said...

REDE2FLY... the top ten does include suicide sir... it is tenth...

Nameless Cynic said...

Well, I won't argue with your self-assessment. Particularly since you were the one who pointed out the number of motor vehicle accidents in the US.

If you're curious, you could look through this handy little list of other NRA myths and why thinking people shouldn't spew them before getting all stuffy here.

Incidentally, since you're looking at the CDC website, you should probably be aware that the NRA had some of their pet congresscritters ban them from studying gun violence.

Rede2fly said...

In 2012 the CDC reported over 2 Million assaults treated in US Hospital Emergency Depts.

The Gun Death figures stated in your links include suicides. I am not threatened by other people's decision to determine their own destiny as long as they don't include me or my family. The GermanWings pilot comes to mind. Japan does not permit any personal firearms and yet has a higher rate of suicide than does the US.

People who do not/will not obey existing gun laws will most likely not obey additional laws. The US has fairly strict laws forbidding murder, assault, rape, drunk driving and sex trafficing all of which are acts committed on a daily basis.

Laws affect the law-abiding population and are ignored by everyone who commits a crime. I live in a state which enforces the Castle Doctrine and have had an intruder at 2am.

Bill, since you're such an anti-gun person, why don't you put a big sign on your front lawn that says "This Home is a Gun Free Zone". Let me know how it works out for you.

Rede2fly said...

Yes. Suicides accounted for roughly 40,000 deaths in comparison to 11,000 for firearm homicides which came in at #18 on the CDC list of cause of death in 2012.

The news business and government are fabricating a sense of panic in the public over firearms. There is no "explosion" of firearm violence in the US.

Nameless Cynic said...

Well, since "explosion" indicates a significant increase, no. We continue to lead every other industrialized nation in the world in our murder rates, though. We rank up there with the third-world countries and war zones.

But that's OK with you, right? You like the idea of Americans dying.

Good to know.

Rede2fly said...

You are correct that our apparent desire to end the lives of others is too high. At 3.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, we are way above most of our cultured European peers. To what can we attribute that fact? Certainly not temperature as the Houston-Chicago 'study' alleges. Canada is way behind us, but Greenland of all places totally kicks our ass with a rate 4x higher.

The US has the highest rate of firearm ownership in the world at almost 90 firearms per 100 people, yet our rank in homicides isn't in the top 10.
It isn't in the top 25, 50 or even in the top 100 countries in the world.

The US comes in 121st in homicide rates per 100,000 people. We aren't even in the top half.

Nameless Cynic said...

Oh, look! He found a statistical anomaly! It disproves everything!

Unless you know what the hell you're talking about. Greenland is nothing but statistical anomalies. It has 1/10 the population of Wyoming, spread over a landmass 2/3 the size of the US. It has a mean temperature of well below freezing for 6 months out of the year (or more, depending on where you are).

Here. Let me put it to you this way. The intentional homicide rate of the United States ranks with the third world countries, as you can see in this graphical representation. It is surpassed by Greenland, a barren, desolate, frozen wasteland - this is a fact only important to people who have run out of logical arguments but refuse to admit that they just like seeing Americans die.

Unknown said...

More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less than an hour’s drive away. Since 2008, more than 1,300 of the confiscated guns, the analysis showed, were bought from just one store, Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Ill., within a few miles of Chicago’s city limits.

I didn't read the entire conversation here but saw this part.

Don't know if anyone here mentioned this but if you are going purchase pistols or assault weapons you can only buy them in the state of your residence. I spend winters in Austin tx and found that out while trying to purchase an AR. This is federal law. You can purchase long guns and shot guns. For legal gun purchases the buyer has to go through the "nics" check and with the serial # the police can find out the original person who purchased the firearm, and can charge that person a straw purchase and providing a firearm to a criminal. We don't need any more gun laws we need to enforce the ones we have. Although the in state purchased fire arms are legal no resident of Illinois is legally purchasing pistols or assault weapons in Indiana. Criminals don't purchase guns legally.

If you think gun control works check Belgium, France, Germany etc.

Nameless Cynic said...

Good lord. Is this thread starting up again? I already had to embargo it once.

Using UNODC (Office on Drugs and Crime) homicide rates, per 100,000 inhabitants:
US - 3.8
Belgium - 1.8
France - 1.2
Germany - 0.7

That's ANY homicide. From any source.

And know what? Thanks to gun control laws, a lot less of them are caused by guns, too.

HRHPhantom said...

Great info from both sides... one question though... what is a Troll!?

Jarod Strain said...

To be clear I self-identify as a bit of a gun nut.
That said the hard reality that neither side of the argument is comfortable admitting for some reason is that statistically you cannot demonstrate that more or less gun legislation really makes an appreciable difference. There are too many other factors at play.
That said gun restrictions may (conjecture) make a difference in certain incidents and the lack of restrictions may make a difference in certain other incidents. There is simply not enough information for it to be relevant.
I have always hated this particular meme because it blatantly uses false information. You cannot make a positive point starting with a lie.
Thank you for your very thorough article.

David Sutherland said...

While the banter has certainly been entertaining, I think we can all agree on one thing, trying to limit violent crime by owning or not owning guns is like trying to control the weather by owning or not owning a thermometer. Futile. The whole point of the original chart is thus pointless. People are violent because of their selfish evil desires. I wish that someone in the course of humanity would have offered a solution to that problem. Oh wait, someone did, but peoples selfish evil desires crossed him off pretty quick.

11001010010110100100101 said...

yeh hi i respect that you did 21 years in the military and all but why did u join if you are so against guns and why do not you talk like a civilized person instead of calling people ¨brainless, ammosexuals and morons it doesn't make your point get across any better but it just makes you look crazy.

Nameless Cynic said...

Well, Binary, I'll tell you what. Before I point out the obvious deficiencies in your reading comprehension, I'll let you wander back up to the top of the page, read the actual post, and tell me where it was that I said I was "so against guns"?