Gun Violence, Correlations, and State Lines

One of the talking points from the pro-gun side is that the states with the strictest gun control laws have the highest rates of gun violence, the implication being that so many people are getting shot because too many law-abiding citizens are unarmed.

First off, I haven’t seen these statistics that show a correlation of strict laws and higher prevalence of violence, so I haven’t run the numbers to see whether this correlation exists. I can totally believe it, though, and I can see how it happens. The problem we’re seeing is, approximately, in three steps:

1. Some states have higher gun violence than others, because gun violence does not happen in isolation from other types of crime, and some states have different social problems than others. For example, the higher the population density, the more opportunities there are for people to shoot each other. Anyway, some states have higher body counts than others due to sociological factors.

2. Therefore, those states with the higher rates of gun violence pass stricter gun control laws as an attempt to get their body counts under control. Unfortunately, these gun control laws do nothing to address the drug wars, gang rivalries, wealth inequality, and other dysfunctions that tend to surround gun-related violence. Situations continue to arise in which people decide to spray bullets.

3. Meanwhile, those states with the strict gun control laws share borders with states with little or no gun control at all. And it’s not like we have border patrols on our state lines, nor should we. The practical upshot is that literally any asshole can buy a gun or several in, for example, Virginia, load them into the trunk of a car, and drive them into Maryland without incident. Sure, there may be penalties if you get caught carrying a weapon without a license, but that’s only if you get caught. Getting the firearm, in itself, is not difficult. Bullets: same thing. Once the ammo is procured, it can be transported anywhere on land.

This is why, for gun control laws to be effective, they need to be nationwide. Transporting anything smaller than large livestock across state lines is no trouble at all.

Therefore, the causation behind the correlation is that higher rates of gun violence lead to stricter gun control laws. It is NOT that the presence of more bullets leads to less shooting.