A lady of my acquaintance, who is a certified left coaster, triumphantly brought me a copy of a recent Newsweek magazine article celebrating the fact that California now has the strongest anti-gun laws in the country. In this article, California was favorably compared to Mississippi which was castigated as having the weakest anti-gun laws. This nice lady, a retired school teacher, was happily convinced that she was living in the safest of all states. She pointed out to me that the anti-gun organization quoted by Newsweek gave California an “A” while Mississippi, you guessed it, got an “F”. Now that means a lot to a school teacher.
Mindful of the fact that we live in a time characterized by “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”, I decided to check the latest FBI crime data for these states (2015 report). I found that California had 426 violent crimes per 100,000 to Mississippi’s 278. That means that California had a 35% higher per capita crime rate than Mississippi. At the same time, the All Cause Homicide rate was 8.7/100,000 in Mississippi versus 4.8 in California. However, the FBI lumps together criminal homicide and what they term “Non-negligent” (i.e., justifiable) homicide.
From the above information, I would draw the following conclusions: If we assume that most “All Cause” homicides were connected with firearm use, it follows that the good people of Mississippi have used their weapons to achieve a 35% greater reduction in violent crime than have Californians. Furthermore, they’ve reached this goal by returning 45% more violent criminals to their Maker. That’s what I call successful self-defense.
If Mississippi had the same ratio of all cause homicide to the number of violent crimes as California, it would have 8.7 all cause homicides per 772 violent crimes (rather than 8.7 per 278). Since violent crimes in Mississippi are 64% below what one would expect from the homicide rate as compared to California, one could infer that most of these homicides should fall into the “Non-negligent”, or justifiable, homicide. That, of course, would be homicide committed by a defender against an assailant. Other weapons (knives, clubs, etc.) that contribute to all cause homicides would almost always be wielded by an assailant, not a defender.
Furthermore, a shooting homicide by a defender would NOT be counted a violent crime. In fact, it’s no crime at all—it’s really an asset to society. Therefore, the dramatically lower number of violent crimes in Mississippi compared to California may largely be due to citizens and/or police using their firearms legally and effectively for defensive purposes.
Now the inquisitive reader might be curious as to why I characterize this Newsweek report (12/19/16) as “Weak News”. In this case, the magazine’s reporter, Michele Gorman, not only failed to consider the source of the report but failed to get a balanced opinion on this controversial subject. Her information comes exclusively from a California anti-gun group known as the “Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence”. Her data stems from that organization’s so called “Score card”. The Law Center was started after some San Francisco lawyers were shot by a troubled litigant in 1993. (As a strong 2nd Amendment proponent, I pause to caution you not to respond that way if you’re sued!) Clearly they have an axe to grind, or a gun to melt down, take your pick. To say they are extremely biased is an understatement. That’s why they missed the obvious.
Mississippi, in fact, perfectly confirms Dr. John Lott’s premise: “More Guns Less Crime!”
Now what if the geniuses at WeakNews had checked with the NRA or the California Rifle and Pistol association? Well, they just might have produced an article worthy of a real news magazine, worthy even of Newsweek.
Finally, I just couldn’t leave the FBI’s report without taking a quick peak at Texas. We all know that Texas is open carry country and has a “Don’t mess with Texas” attitude. Certainly, with all those shoot outs at high noon, you just know that Texas has got to be a lot more dangerous than California. Well, it ain’t necessarily so! Texas has a violent crime rate of 412/100,000 and an all cause homicide rate of 4.5. It’s a safer place than gun-denuded California on both counts.
I can hardly wait to give this news to my lady friend. I’ll probably have to help her pack.
—Wallace Schwam, MD is a retired internist with interests in geriatrics and pharmacology who trained at Duke University. He rated expert in marksmanship in the Army and continues to enjoy hunting and tactical training with handgun, rifle and shotgun.